What if they held a public hearing & nobody came?

Mayor Black getting set to conclude public hearing

Tantramar Mayor Andrew Black seemed uncertain about how to proceed Tuesday when no one showed up for a public hearing on the once highly contentious issue of allowing more drive-thru restaurants near Sackville’s two highway exits.

Town Planner Lori Bickford gave a seven minute presentation outlining design standards to alleviate any increased traffic congestion more drive-thrus might bring.

Then Black noted that no members of the public had shown up to speak for or against the proposal to lift the ban on more drive-thrus that has been in effect for 22 years.

“I guess, I guess that’s it. I think that concludes the public hearing,” he said as he looked out at about 50 empty chairs in the audience section of the council chamber.

Design standards

However, Black then asked Lori Bickford to explain how she came up with design standards that would require at least 11 spaces for vehicles heading into a new drive-thru and two for ones heading out of it.

The new standards would require a traffic study, paid for by the developer, if fewer queuing spaces were provided or if the expected number of drive-thru trips would be more than 40 vehicles-per-hour during peak periods.

Town Planner Lori Bickford speaks about new design standards for drive-thrus near the hwy

Bickford explained that she had consulted town staff including the CAO and town engineer and had also looked at drive-thru rules in other municipalities.

The new standards would also require a general traffic study for any new fast food restaurants or coffee shops, retail stores or gas stations/convenience marts that would generate what Bickford described in her background paper as “more than 100 additional peak hour trips” near the highway exits.

After Bickford’s answer, Black announced “that concludes the public hearing,” before noticing that Councillor Michael Tower had something to say.

‘Sustainability plan’

“Just for clarity, we do have two that we classify as public when it comes to questions,” Tower said referring to the Warktimes and CHMA reporters in the room.

He wondered if the reporters might be permitted to ask clarifying questions and after Black agreed, I asked about the reference to Sackville’s “sustainability plan” in Bickford’s background paper:

“Does that make it OK or more OK to have idling in a drive-thru because the town has taken steps to offset it?” I asked.

Mayor Black replied that while the town does have the power to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, it has no way of doing that for drive-thrus.

“We don’t really have anything other than limiting drive-thrus from town. We don’t have any anti-idling bylaws. We can’t force people to not idle in town,” he explained before referring the question to Bickford.

“That’s correct,” she answered.

“In the past,” she said, “the town had explored the potential to incorporate an anti-idling bylaw that would apply throughout the town. However, provincial legislation did not allow for that to happen.”

Latest drive-thru proposal

Pizza Delight on Mallard Dr.

The proposed bylaw changes were drafted after the numbered company that owns the Pizza Delight building on Mallard Drive applied for a drive-thru there.

In a submission supporting the zoning change, 734163 NB Inc., notes that the Pizza Delight building has been vacant for a while.

“We have been trying to partner with national/international franchise brands that have indicated [they would] be more interested in a drive-thru facility,” the submission adds.

“Based on the history of inquiries made on the property, there have been a number of famous brands that lost their interest for not having an essential facility of Drive-thru.”

One public comment

During her presentation to council on Tuesday, Lori Bickford noted that the town had not received any written comments in response to its notices about the public hearing.

However yesterday, former Sackville councillor Sabine Dietz sent this e-mail to both Mayor Black and Lori Bickford after reading a CHMA report on the public hearing:

It is with dismay that I read CHMA’s story about the “public consultation” around a proposed by-law change regarding drive-thrus in Sackville.

I think the last public consultation on a by-law change a few weeks ago likely had something to do with the absolute lack of input from residents: it felt rather chilling to see the lack of discussion, and the way presenters were discouraged. No wonder we don’t feel it’s worth our time to provide any comment, since there are no real consultations happening.

As for the drive-thrus: there remain to be tons of arguments for and against them. And in this case, as with other zoning and by-law changes, it is not just “we will manage traffic”, that council should base their decision on. Council should be encouraged and indeed required to take a more holistic approach and consider all the interconnected issues around such a change. I am going to list just a few:

– people not getting out of the car, not moving = increased health issues such as obesity
– idling = greenhouse gas emissions (one could manage that)
– use of space (one could argue asphalt parking is as bad)
– what do we want our community to look and feel like: a community known for its highway fast-food places?
– increased traffic (e.g., on 540) = active transportation becomes harder to implement broadly

There are more, I am sure, but it takes a conversation and engagement to get them all out in the open and to weigh them. And they all form part of what council should consider, not just the narrow framing of managing traffic, and supporting businesses.

I think both a zoning by-law which was changed to permit building in a flood zone (as any risk manager would identify it, especially after seeing the 300+ mm of rainfall in certain locations in NS), as well as allowing more drive-thrus, are significant changes to how we, as residents, see our community develop; what kinds of risks we are willing to take; and what kinds of priorities we see for the future. These conversations should not happen under pressure from developers. They should be part of a comprehensive engagement around a new municipal plan, which needs to give residents an opportunity to reflect on what we want to see happen in the community.

And just to go on record, so you have at least one response to the proposed by-law change: without a comprehensive engagement around a new strategy for our community through a municipal planning process, I oppose making this significant by-law change.

Town Council is expected to discuss the proposed bylaw changes at its next meeting on August 8th.

To read Lori Bickford’s backgrounder on drive-thrus, click here.

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10 Responses to What if they held a public hearing & nobody came?

  1. Norman Cole says:

    Why would someone even bother to show up at one of these council meetings this has been a on going issue for over 20 years and the tree huggers have all the answers.They don’t want thier kids to move away but there is no where to work.This town has been so anti development in so many aeras even some councillor thar have relocated here wants no development that its no problem to basically turn what property thats available to turn it into walking trails snd duck ponds and heaven help if they try to use land west of town to anything other than protected walking parks.So this is Sackville with even building lots bought out and tore down just for the good keeping Sackville what it is and will always be.Every commercial place in downtown core thats for sale has almost no value or little except a pub on the side walk or a small operation that has little or no chance of Survival in this quaint little town NOT OPEN TO NEW BUSINESS

    • Jon says:

      What businesses were prevented from opening in Sackville?

      Did “tree huggers” stop Sackville residents such as yourself from patronizing recently closed businesses such as the Vogue Theatre, the Black Duck cafe, Thunder & Lightning, etc?

  2. Janet Hammock says:

    Unfortunately, during the month of July when we scheduled our summer holidays away from Sackville, we missed hearing and taking part in three very important discussions/decisions that deeply affect the future of Sackville and our lives as residents.

    Yesterday I wrote a little background about the drive-through question, and decided to copy it here. Perhaps it will help to explain a little why no one attended. Here are my thoughts:

    It has been interesting to read the latest discussions at Town Council about Drive-through restaurants in Sackville, in particular, the references as to why allowing more drive-throughs to be built was voted down way back in our “ancient history”. It is a lesson in how things change over time, and why.

    The vote against more drive-throughs at that time was much more complicated and nuanced than what comes across in today’s discussions.

    While limiting increased emissions from idling cars was important to many, and avoiding increased traffic congestion at the two entrances to our town, another very important consideration for some centred around dreams and visions of what the Town of Sackville might be in the future. We were already aware that unless we took active steps to encourage tourists to drive into our downtown and spend some time there, our downtown business core would continue to falter.

    We thought “Why couldn’t “little old Sackville” be a community which is proudly pro-active in taking steps to control increasing auto emissions— why couldn’t we be a small-town leading in the fight against climate change?”

    We reimagined Sackville as a town where our unique history and buildings would be celebrated and honoured, as a place where passers-by on the Trans Can would be intentionally encouraged, in every possible way, to drive into our town to enjoy all that it had to offer.

    It was feared by many that if we created more roadside fast-food attractions, people would simply drive off the TC, buy food from franchises that had nothing to do with our town, gas up, and drive out again, without realizing that if they drove a few blocks further in, a beautiful town could be found, with locally-owned shops, locally-owned restaurants, parks, a playground, a movie theatre, a university, businesses and services. We thought that this would attract new businesses to our core.

    I can remember feeling proud of the visions for a “Sackville of the future” that grew out of these discussions. An entire beautiful entry to Sackville at 506 was imagined and discussed at Town Council and at special meetings where the Council brought in a team of experts to lead us further into how we might actualize our strengths and attributes to grow into a thriving community with a promising future.

    (Remember how hard we all worked to stop referring to our two town exits as “exits” (as in Exit 506) and start using the inviting terminology “entrances”?)

    I think it is important for people who were not here 22 years ago, to understand that it was not all about “emissions and traffic” when the by-laws were made and upheld. There were many other things that were being talked about at that time and the “no more drive-throughs” decision took place in the midst of that much larger context.

    I am so glad I was a part of Sackville at that time when it was still possible to imagine that we might jump on the bandwagon to preserve our history, lead the way to less pollution through our actions, and support a thriving downtown with businesses and attractions that were locally-owned.

    Not enough people jumped onto that wagon. Instead, we moved as a community in the opposite direction in just about every way, including abolishing the town’s heritage bylaw and heritage committee, a move which has gradually allowed many of our historical buildings to die. With these losses our local people’s power eroded, and our “thriving local downtown vision” has faded. Now buildings such as the Vogue Theatre lie empty, iconic restaurants such as Mel’s Diner have closed, there are yawning gaps in our downtown core’s building facade, and a developer has been given approval to construct a huge building at the edge of our last bit of town-defining natural habitat, our Waterfowl Park.

    Back to drive-throughs, and why I think there was a dismal attendance at that meeting, and almost no mention of the reasons which lay behind the creation of that by-law, in addition to emissions and traffic control: That time has long gone. The old reasons, while still valid hopes, were not even talked about in Council.

    However, those who lived here 22 years ago, might do well to remind others of the context for our “regressive” by-law.

  3. Jon says:

    “In the past,” she said, “the town had explored the potential to incorporate an anti-idling bylaw that would apply throughout the town. However, provincial legislation did not allow for that to happen.”

    I’m curious what act of the legislature forbids municipalities from restricting vehicle idling. Has anyone mentioned the name of the act that prevents towns from enacting bylaws about idling vehicles?

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Jon, that’s a good question. I invite anyone interested in this to look through the New Brunswick Local Governance Act :


      In particular, the parts dealing with ByLaws (Section 10-20) and Enforcement (Section 144-166) are directly related to this question. I cannot find any regulation in these sections prohibiting municipal governments from enacting anti-idling bylaws. For more clarification, our town council should ask Ms. Bickford and Mayor Black to explain exactly what provincial legislation prevents the Town of Tantramar from enacting such a bylaw. Perhaps I just missed it when reading the Act.

    • Travis says:

      Most new vehicles that follow today’s emissions automatically shut off at traffic lights drive throughs we must be able to focus are energy towards something more beneficial then idle free zones for vehicles that already shut down automatically

    • Les Hicks says:

      An addendum to my last reply to you Jon. I had sent a query to the provincial Dept of Local Government and just received an answer yesterday from a department representative “Further to your query, Section 10 of the Local Governance Act outlines what by-laws may be made for municipal purposes. There is no restriction in the Act for the creation of an anti-idling by-law.”

      This again begs the question – where did Mayor Black and Ms. Bickford get their information that municipalities are not allowed to enact anti-idling by-laws? I have asked Mayor Black that question but as of yet haven’t received an answer.

      Considering that Mayor Black is the President of the Union of New Brunswick Municipalities and Ms. Bickford is involved in planning for the South East Regional Service Commission, one would think that they should have the correct information on matters relating to the Local Governance Act.

      This erroneous information provided by Mayor Black and Ms. Bickford could have a serious impact on the general public’s support or opposition to the proposed by-law change that would allow future drive-thrus. At the very least, our town council should issue an immediate public correction so that all concerned residents are aware of this before town council proceeds further on this matter.

  4. Travis says:

    This right here is why sackville will never grow. Sackville relies on a volunteer fire department and 3/4 of the people on that department can’t work in sackville because of lack of good jobs. This non growth mentality or retirement town idea has to change or we are going to be a town that people pass by on the highway with no value.

  5. Tim Reiffenstein says:

    As Sabine says, there are reasons for and against this. But we should recognize there will be more traffic moving through an already busy intersection. That certainly means more business coming into town via the highway commercial corridor. Travis also raises a good point about new car technology that significantly reduces idling, IIRC a main concern last time around. But I would challenge him on how many local fast-food employees are also volunteer fire department members? A lot of people work from their vehicles, and so although drive-throughs may not appeal to those who would get their coffee and lunch downtown, they are everyday life for many.

    The main point I would like to make is that if the Town allows another drive through in the former Pizza Delight location, it makes the already dangerous Designated Bike Corridor along Mallard (talk about absolutely stupid routing to begin with!) much more dangerous. For our elected representatives, I see this as a very important reason to quit idling and do your part to leverage the very generous $1 million donation already earmarked for the Trans-Canada Trail Pedway. A pedway would allow cyclists and walkers to avoid the traffic of Mallard entirely. It is also a compelling reason to reject the incredibly poorly argued request to allow ATVs to travel downtown, and on the trail as they already do against a council-created municipal bylaw! More generally, I would like to see Tantramar’s development show a little more balance between private and public goods.

  6. S.A. Cunliffe says:

    Thanks for attending and reporting Bruce Wark… you do very detailed and important work locally and I hope that your efforts are recognized by more people. Your comments section has more democracy than all levels of government put together. I don’t look to the local politicians for anything and I’m not interested in anything that they may have to say at all – I have assessed each one of them and find them unworthy of my time and attention. In particular I am disappointed with Andrew Black after believing he was an ally of the skateboarding youth before he went into politics I have come to see him as something else entirely. Enough said. You will never see me at the town hall for any meetings there, ever.

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