The vote means that Wendy and Kelly Alder will have to wait at least another month to find out if council might eventually allow them to open a Robin’s Donuts drive-thru at their Tantramar Gas Bar near exit 506.
“It’s very frustrating,” an emotional Wendy Alder told council during the question period after Tuesday’s meeting. She added that the town had stopped buying fuel from her Ultramar switching to the Esso station instead.
“I just feel like everywhere we go in this town, you don’t want us to succeed,” she said.
“You don’t want to help us by buying fuel from us and now you won’t give us a drive-thru. It’s just one more thing. And you know what? Normally, I’m pretty level-headed, but I’m pissed off.”
Although a majority of councillors appear to favour allowing a Robin’s drive-thru at exit 506, it became clear during Tuesday’s meeting that they feel caught in a maze of legal and zoning restrictions.
In July, when the Alders’ application first came before council, a majority voted against amending the town’s 15-year-old bylaw banning new drive-thrus.
Councillors said then they feared that changing the bylaw could open the way for more drive-thrus at exit 504 where the ones at McDonald’s and Tim Hortons already generate considerable traffic.
Now, under provincial law, council is unable to re-open the issue for a full year unless a proposed bylaw change is substantially different from the one in July.
“It’s the law,” Mayor John Higham said. “You cannot have the same question for another year, that’s the law. There’s not much more we can do about that, we can’t break the law.”
The mayor added that councillors have not yet reached a consensus on how to come up with a substantially different bylaw change partly because they don’t want to repeat mistakes made in the 1990s when the highway commercial zone at exit 504 was developed.
Councillor Allison Butcher said that while she would love to see the Alders open a drive-thru, it’s important to plan carefully for development at exit 506.
“This whole process has really, for me, shown how under-developed exit 506 is,” she said adding that commercial development at exit 504 had proceeded too rapidly.
“There’s so many businesses up there,” she said, “and for years we had a lot of issues around traffic flow, there was so many safety concerns up there and it’s because it all happened like that.”
Coun. Butcher told Alder she feels that exit 506 has great potential and the town clearly needs more businesses and more jobs.
“So this is an opportunity for us to look at it and figure out a way to lay it out so that if and when you put in a drive-thru, or anybody puts in a hotel or increases their propane business, or whatever it is they’re going to do to bring in more jobs and more business, that it’s going to be done safely and in a way that will work really well there.”
Wendy Alder warned council again on Tuesday that without a drive-thru, she may have to close the Tantramar Gas Bar.
And single-mother Kerry Simpson told council her 16-year-old daughter, who works part-time at the gas bar, has already had her hours cut because of a drop in business.
“As part of a low-income family who experiences struggles every day, how do we not allow business to expand and create more jobs and more hours in our town?” she asked council.
Later, during an interview, Simpson added that her daughter has lost the equivalent of a full shift per paycheque meaning she has less money to help her save for university, pay for her clothing and phone bills while contributing some grocery money to the family budget.
Simpson says council should stop delaying the Alders’ request for a Robin’s drive-thru that would keep jobs in Sackville.
“Talking about economic growth and Moloney [Electric] shutting down and the cost of groceries going up and the cost of everything going up, it’s a no-brainer,” she said.
To read the motion council passed concerning highway exit 506, click here.