Takin’ care of business during summer of flood & fire

Councillor Allison Butcher

During a summer of steady news about lives and homes lost in torrential rains, flash floods and devastating wildfires, Tantramar Town Council has approved a $1.2 million tax break for a six-storey apartment building in Sackville’s flood-risk zone while moving to lift the ban on more greenhouse-gas emitting drive-thrus near the TransCanada highway.

“In the not so distant past, we had a request come before council to change the no drive-thru rule that did not pass,” Councillor Allison Butcher said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

She was referring to Sackville council’s decision in 2016 to reject an application for a Robins Donuts drive-thru at the Ultramar Gas Bar near TransCanada Exit 506 because of concerns about traffic congestion and the polluting effects of greenhouse gas emissions from idling cars.

“Here we are after COVID,” Butcher continued, “when we realized that there are some times when a drive-by getting their food is something that people want to do that maybe they didn’t before.”

She added she was reassured that rules would be in place requiring the developer to pay for a traffic study if the expected number of drive-thru vehicles would exceed 40 during peak periods or if the developer could not provide at least 11 queuing spaces for vehicles heading into a drive-thru and at least two for those heading out.

“This shows me there will be safety considerations,” Butcher said. “Traffic studies. Rules about the amount of vehicles in a space. Those were the things that, in the past, really worried me.”

She did not mention previous concerns about idling vehicles and no one else raised the issue before council voted unanimously to change the bylaw that has prohibited new drive-thrus for the last 23 years.

Council was responding to an application from a numbered company for a drive-thru at the former Pizza Delight property on Mallard Drive.

Unless members change their minds, the bylaw allowing more drive-thrus will likely get final approval at their next regular meeting on September 12th.

Little apparent concern

Members of council and staff seemed to be under little public pressure on the once contentious drive-thru issue after no one showed up for a public hearing last month.

Town Planner Lori Bickford suggested then that Tantramar could have more effect fighting climate change by continuing to limit greenhouse gas emissions from its own fleet of vehicles.

And issues raised seven years ago suddenly seemed less urgent such as concerns expressed in a 2016 letter from the local environmental group EOS Eco-Energy which urged council to uphold the ban on more drive-thrus.

The EOS letter referred to research conducted in 2011 showing that cars lined up in the Tim Hortons drive-thru were idling for an average of 5.7 minutes and that about 80 vehicles visited each day.

That underlined federal anti-idling messages from Natural Resources Canada: “If drivers of light-duty vehicles avoided idling by just three minutes a day, over the year Canadians would collectively save 630 million litres of fuel and 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.”

 7-2 vote on tax incentive

Unlike the unanimity on permitting more drive-thrus, the vote was seven in favour and two against on whether to approve the nearly $1.2 million tax incentive for JN Lafford Realty’s six-storey, 71-unit apartment building overlooking the Sackville Waterfowl Park.

The concern was not about the location of the building in a potential flood zone, but on the size of the 10-year tax break.

“On the one hand, I see the need to spur development in our area, but on the other hand, I feel like the proposal is too rich,” said Councillor Josh Goguen.

He added that while the government has forced municipal amalgamation, it has limited Tantramar’s ability to generate new income to pay for services in the former LSDs.

Councillor Josh Goguen

Goguen said the economic incentive program was modelled on Moncton’s, but Sackville is less able to afford such a generous tax break.

“This could mean the difference between taxes staying the same or seeing an increase,” he said.

Councillor Bruce Phinney also said the incentive was “a little too rich” and that he saw no similarities between the Sackville program and the ones in Moncton and Riverview.

Councillors Michael Tower and Allison Butcher strongly supported the tax breaks.

Tower pointed out that Tantramar will get as much money as it gives in a 50/50 split.

“We have to compete and we can’t compete with Moncton,” he added.

“If we’re going to get developers to come here, we have to have something.”

Councillor Butcher argued that the tax incentives were put in place in 2020 and the Lafford project qualifies for them.

“This development fits the criteria that we have right now,” she said.

“I, for one, wouldn’t feel comfortable picking and choosing,” she added.

“Once they fit the criteria that’s set in place, why should we go, ‘Oh well, this one yes, but that one no?'”

In the end, only Goguen and Phinney voted against approving the economic incentive.

For previous coverage, click here.

This entry was posted in Environment, Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Takin’ care of business during summer of flood & fire

  1. Ralston says:

    Butcher is full of you know what. She should revisit the minutes of the last application she voted down and she can clearly see the rules as far as queuing spots and traffic studies if needed were all there. She’s a phoney and this so called explanation assured me she is either clueless or went along with the former ring leader of the group she was in with at that time. And black and tower are no better.

  2. marc says:

    “We have to compete and we can’t compete with Moncton,” [Mr. Tower] added.

    Sadly, as these two decisions clearly illustrate, when it comes to chasing the dollars, there is nothing new about this small town.

    – How much per year, on average, will local residents be subsidizing Mr. Lafford’s palace on the marsh for the next decade?

    – How many fast-food establishments does a town of 5500 need?

    – And finally, does this Council have a vision for this town of being anything other than just another easy-off/easy-on fast-food stop on the TCH?

    “Competing” with Mocton is a fool’s errand. Our focus should be on what makes Sackville unique, not just more of the same ol’ tired… “stuff.” What’s next? Don’t like our “dairy air?” Let’s close ’em down and erect some more big box student housing, instead… yecch.

    Want to live in a place that’s more like Moncton? Consider moving to Riverview… or even to Moncton.

  3. I always find the contents of these spiels somewhat focused on a singular message.

    “Split vote tax incentive” title is misleading. It was not a split vote, it was 7-2 in favour.
    “Takin’ Care of Business during summer of flood and fire,” appears to be showing a bias on business. Maybe it should be, “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning, since the world’s been turning.” Ha ha.
    I can only hope that we will continue to see a balanced approach in addressing the overall needs of the new community while embracing the much needed development that is required to move the new community forward. Looking forward to “A New Kind of Larger Community.”

    Note from Bruce Wark: Thanks so much for your comment. I changed the misleading “split vote” heading. I guess a “split vote” would be something like 5-4 and as you point out, it was actually 7-2 in favour.

  4. Stephen says:

    The decision to permit more drive-thru establishments is correct from an environmental perspective. If idling of internal combustion engines is the problem, then anything that makes the line-ups shorter reduces idling time. If customers can choose from more outlets, then line-ups will be shorter with less idling time, even if a few more people are heading out to drive-thrus because there are more of them. Not to be forgotten is the big change since 20 years ago: hybrids and EV have no emissions in line-ups. Whether it is not so healthy to eat fast food from drive thrus is another problem, and zoning regulations are not likely to be the best tool to address this issue.

    • brucewark says:

      Well, it’s a little hard to swallow — if you’ll pardon the pun — that permitting more drive-thrus will reduce idling time and thereby cut GHG emissions. That equation [more=less] needs more convincing proof than mere assertion. Common sense once said that if major highways got clogged, the solution was simple: build more of them. But it’s now well established that more highways generate more traffic and more congestion. See Wired Mag’s report “Building bigger roads actually makes traffic worse” https://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/

      A recent CBS news report from Miami carries the subhead: “More lanes, more congestion” and goes on to state: “Companies say they are changing their drive-thrus by adding more car lanes and technology such as AI to speed up orders and reduce potential problems…But chains trying to address congestion by adding more lanes just encourage more cars to come.” https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/restaurant-drive-thru-problems-cities-towns/

      By all accounts, the fast food industry is growing. I’ve found a variety of websites with the following figures: “In 2021, the fast food industry in Canada was worth $27 billion. Between 2016 and 2021, the fast food industry grew by 1.3%. Following the pandemic, the fast-food restaurants in Canada experienced an 8.2% market growth in 2022 and the market size is now $29.8 billion…the industry is predicted to continue growing and reach $55 billion by 2027.” And, as it grows, it will generate more traffic at drive-thrus. https://madeinca.ca/fast-food-canada-statistics/#:~:text=Between%202016%20and%202021%2C%20the,estimated%20%243%2C589%20million%20in%202021.

      There are also similarities between fast food and alcohol. It’s well established that increasing the availability of alcohol (an addictive product) increases consumption. A study published by the American Journal of Public Health in 2003 is entitled: “Land Use Planning and the Control of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Fast Food Restaurants” and makes the case for the legitimacy of using municipal zoning restrictions to protect public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447982/

      Finally, Chris Van Tulleken’s recent book “Ultra-Processed People: Why We Can’t Stop Eating Food That Isn’t Food” argues that ultra-processed foods, (UPF), are addictive suggesting that as with alcohol, increasing availability will increase consumption with more visits to drive-thru lanes. On page 153, he quotes Nicole Avena, a research neuroscientist at Mount Sinai in New York: “Her research focuses on food addiction and obesity. She told me how UPF, especially products with particular combinations of salt, fat, sugar and protein, can drive our ancient evolved systems for ‘wanting’: ‘Some ultra-processed foods may activate the brain reward system in a way that is similar to what happens when people use drugs like alcohol, or even nicotine or morphine.'” https://profiles.mountsinai.org/nicole-m-avena-blanchard

      • Les Hicks says:

        Thanks for providing the additional information Bruce. I hope that our town council members will take the initiative to do some investigation on their own and consider information from studies like those that you sourced as well as others. I know that there is a wealth of information that is easy to find on-line by doing a simple search. It would be refreshing to see our elected representatives do some background research into issues like this themselves rather than relying only on the information that town staff or SERSC provide them. By doing so they can make more informed decisions on issues like this one.

  5. Jon says:

    “We have to compete and we can’t compete with Moncton.”

    What does Tower even mean by this? That if Lafford isn’t subsidized by corporate welfare like tax reductions he’ll build his apartments in Moncton instead of Sackville? Has there been any reason whatever to believe that he wouldn’t build here without a tax deal? Lafford himself basically said at a public meeting that his building would go up no matter what, that it was inevitable. The council is talking itself into giving away our taxes without any rational reason, just vague fear.

  6. S.A. Cunliffe says:

    I personally don’t feel strongly about ‘drive thru’ culture… if I eat out in a restaurant for the occasional splurge that’s lovely.. but as I don’t own a car and actually prefer to cook at home to economize [house wife lifestyle] most of this ‘culture of food fast thru a window into your car’ is just laughable to me.. unnecessary and well, unhealthy… it’s probably because I’m European. But thanks for the coverage all the same Bruce… you work hard to create great quality reporting here.

  7. Dodie Perkin says:

    Why do we have to compete with Moncton? What does Moncton have? A lot of chain restaurants, no character, not a lot of great shopping, a huge problem with addictions and homelessness…. I’ve spent time in almost every major city in Canada, and trust me when I say that there is absolutely nothing outstanding about Moncton. In my list of places to live (or visit), Moncton would be pretty close to the bottom. Why would we ever want to compete with that???

    I totally agree that Sackville/Tantramar should be thinking about what it is that makes THIS community attractive and creating a “not-Moncton” community here. Sadly, our downtown is dying, our housing is now very expensive and sometimes non-existent, it seems like our landlords are increasingly people “from away” who have no investment in our community other than the money they can make, we also seem to be struggling with addiction and homelessness (Yay! We’re just like Moncton!!) and I really haven’t heard much vision from anyone on Council, or anyone who has any expertise on how we can make Sackville a thriving community.

    There are a lot of good things about Sackville/Tantramar. We’re very lucky to have eating establishments in our town that go a long way to making that aspect of it unique and wonderful, and we have some lovely local businesses. But in terms of the community as a whole, we need to have a meaningful vision of what we want our community to look like in the next few years, and how we’re going to get there.

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