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Sackville business owner continuing fight to open drive-thru

SACKVILLE, N.B. – A local business owner is not ready to give up her fight to add a drive-thru to her gas bar location by the highway.

A local business owner is not ready to give up her fight to add a drive-thru to her gas bar location by the highway.

And she is being buoyed by widespread support from the community against town council’s decision last week to deny her request to amend the zoning bylaw that would allow the expansion.

Wendy Alder, co-owner of the Ultramar gas station and convenience store on Cattail Ridge, just off Exit 506, said she was surprised by last week’s vote, which saw five of seven councillors shoot down the bylaw amendment amid concerns over idling and congestion in the highway commercial area.

“I honestly didn’t think it would be an issue,” she said of her proposal to open up a Robin’s Donuts drive-thru.

The decision also sparked displeasure among many local residents and business owners, who have helped Alder initiate a Facebook group page to keep her cause in the public eye, as well as circulate a petition, which already has several hundred signatures.

“I’ve had many conversations with many people . . . and they are upset with the close-mindedness of council,” said Alder.

An amendment to the zoning bylaw was required in this case because new drive-thru restaurants have been basically prohibited from Sackville’s highway commercial zones since 2001, when the council of the day voted to change its bylaw mainly due to congestion issues related to the Exit 504/Main Street highway commercial area. Several years later, the town also made several recommendations through its sustainability plan to reduce emissions, including an idling policy.

But Alder argues her proposal would not add to the congestion problem, since it is not located at the 504 exit that faces those challenges. And from her understanding, several councillors she’s spoken with since the vote indicated they would be willing to support an amendment to the bylaw if it were for Exit 506 only or an exception for her business.

“They’ve said they support what I’m doing . . .but they just couldn’t support it as it was written. So I think it’s just a matter of getting it worded differently.”

Public support for Alder’s proposal was also evident at this week’s council meeting, when several dozen residents came out to question councillors on their decision.

Coun. Allison Butcher stated she wasn’t comfortable supporting the amendment last week because it would have opened up the entire highway commercial area to more drive-thrus, which would have just added to the traffic problems at Exit 504.

“But if it was more site specific, I would probably support it,” she said.

Coun. Andrew Black agreed, saying he’d be more inclined to say yes to the proposal if it was solely for that location.

Alder asked mayor and council if they would be willing to engage in a review of the bylaw to see if there are any other avenues she could pursue to get her proposal back on the table.

Mayor John Higham agreed to her request, saying he will have planning staff look at options that wouldn’t require Alder to make another application, which would cost her more time and money.

“It’s worth us considering,” he said. “It’s worth us asking the planning commission to do some research and look at what those options might be.”

Local business owner Anna Zappia said she was disappointed in council and the message they sent to the business community with last week’s decision.

When someone is looking to invest in the community by expanding their business and employing locals, she said she wonders why council is not helping them and providing the support to keep them in operation.

“Right now today, this small business needed you and you disappeared,” she said.


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