Sackville Town Councillors played out a mini-drama last night over a perennial issue: the ban on allowing more drive-thru restaurants near the TransCanada highway.
Council ended up defeating a motion to re-evaluate the ban when the town’s Municipal Plan comes up for review next year.
“This motion is unnecessary, it’s inappropriate and it’s effectively meaningless except perhaps as political theatre,” said Councillor Bill Evans.
“We know who’s all about political theatre and who’s not,” Councillor Shawn Mesheau shot back.
The two were debating Mesheau’s motion (seconded by Councillor Bruce Phinney) to re-evaluate the ban on more coffee drive-thrus as part of the Municipal Plan review process in 2021.
Evans said that when council re-evaluates the Municipal Plan next year, it will consider all its parts including the ban on more drive-thrus that was first adopted in 2001.
He argued that Mesheau’s motion was also misleading.
“It doesn’t commit council to changing the Municipal Plan’s prohibition of drive-thrus, but it gives that impression,” he said.
Mesheau responded that by supporting a review of the ban on drive-thrus, council would be sending a signal that the town is open for business.
“I think it’s important to recognize that this component of the Plan needs to be reviewed, as every component does, but specifically where it…could affect future development and future business in certain areas of our community,” he added.
Councillor Bruce Phinney noted that a lot of people have questioned why council rejected a proposal in 2016 for a Robin’s Donuts restaurant and drive-thru at the Ultramar gas station near highway exit 506.
“Now that we’re moving forward with economic development, I think we need to put this forward now so that we can actually give people some time to think about it,” Phinney said, adding that it would also give council a chance to think about whether it made a mistake in 2016.
“I think we did make a mistake and the thing is, we should turn around and re-evaluate and make sure that we don’t make the same mistake again,” he added.
Councillor Michael Tower said that passing the motion would send a positive message about economic development, while Councillor Allison Butcher argued that the review of the Municipal Plan will be conducted by a new council after the next municipal election.
“We can’t presume to tell them what to do,” she said.
Councillor Andrew Black agreed, adding that opposing the motion would not indicate a lack of support for business.
“I will admit right now that I am still in a position that I don’t support drive-thrus,” he said, suggesting that if he’s re-elected, something might convince him to change his mind when the Municipal Plan comes up for review next year.
“Maybe, just maybe, something might convince me otherwise when the time comes to consider that,” he said. “But this is not that time.”
In the end, the vote on the motion was tied with Councillors Mesheau, Phinney and Tower in favour, while Councillors Evans, Butcher and Black voted against, leaving Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken to cast the deciding vote.
“By my count, it’s three for, three against, is that correct Ms. Beal?” Aiken asked the town clerk.
“I have three and three,” Donna Beal responded.
“In that case, the Chair votes against the motion, so it’s defeated,” Aiken declared bringing the curtain down for now on a long-running drama.