Mayor John Higham has rejected suggestions that Sackville Town Council did not fully understand what it was doing when it voted last year to continue the ban on more fast-food drive-thrus near the TransCanada Highway.
The mayor was responding to a report that Sackville resident Sharon Hicks sent to the mayor and councillors last week.
“I’m stymied with understanding how you’ve concluded that we’ve misinterpreted, we’ve misunderstood, we’ve miscommunicated and that we haven’t done anything,” Higham told Hicks after she presented a verbal summary of her report at Monday’s council meeting. Hicks also asked council to either lift the current ban or explain why it would not take a step that could encourage the establishment of new businesses in town.
“We have consistently said, if there was a proposal, you could bring it forward,” Higham said.
The mayor also rejected Hicks’s contention that the original 2001 bylaw banning further drive-thrus was meant to be only temporary.
Highway exits 504 & 506
The controversy over banning further drive-thrus arose last year after Wendy and Kelly Alder applied to open a Robin’s Donuts drive-thru at their Ultramar gas station on Cattail Ridge near TransCanada Exit 506
A majority of councillors voted against amending the bylaw during a council meeting in July 2016.
At the time, some councillors feared that allowing a drive-thru at Exit 506 would open the way to more of them at Exit 504 leading to increased traffic congestion and pedestrian safety concerns near the high school.
At this week’s council meeting, the mayor suggested similar concerns arose as councillors considered the prospect of a drive-thru at Exit 506.
“When we started to examine it, what we were seeing were eerie similarities between what had happened in 504,” Higham said, “how the roads were misaligned, where there was no left turn lanes, roads that come in on an angle, bends without any pedestrian crossings, that there was a lot of questions about how this could develop properly,” he added.
So, he said, council decided to commission a study to determine what would be needed to accommodate business development at Exit 506.
“You’re urging us to act before we get that information,” the mayor told Hicks. “You’re urging us to act without any understanding of what the public investment would be,” he said, adding that public money had to be spent at Exit 504 to fix problems that the drive-thrus there caused.
Councillors weigh in
After the mayor spoke, other councillors echoed his concerns about allowing more drive-thrus without further study although it’s clear that Bill Evans and Megan Mitton also oppose them on environmental grounds.
Allison Butcher and Michael Tower said they would definitely not want more than two drive-thrus at Exit 504, but suggested they could be open to them at the less-congested 506.
C0uncillors Bruce Phinney and Joyce O’Neill called once again for lifting the ban on further drive-thrus, especially at Exit 506.
“To think that we’re turning down businesses coming to this town just upsets me terribly,” O’Neill said. “We need every bit that we can get.”
For her part, Sharon Hicks said that if council lifted the ban, it could prevent drive-thrus from springing up everywhere by imposing strict conditions that would prevent traffic congestion and alleviate safety concerns.
The comments about traffic drive-thrus came at the beginning of Monday’s council meeting. To see and hear everything that happened in those opening 22 minutes, click here.