By Andrea Arnold
The April 25, 2023 McBride Council meeting was called to order at 7:07pm by Mayor Gene Runtz.
Following the approval of the agenda, council moved to a public hearing for the proposed zoning amendment bylaw No. 815, 2023 to permit a retail cannabis location within village limits, providing required regulations have been met. The bylaw adds Cannabis Use Regulations and outlines the required regulations a retail cannabis establishment would have to adhere to. The amendment adds Cannabis Use Regulations as a subsection under general permitted uses. The subsection states: Cannabis Retail establishments are permitted in Core Commercial (C-1) and Highway Commercial (C-2) zone. However, it also states that no primary public entry to a cannabis retail store shall be located within 150 metres of a parcel boundary of a public elementary or secondary school.
There was one letter read out by Acting CAO Sandy Salt. The letter from C&S Ross was strongly in opposition to the bylaw. They stated that just because something is the law, or popular opinion, that does not make it right. They believe that society is declining, and decisions like this one are helping it along. They asked the question, why does the government have to support people’s drug and alcohol habits. Cannabis is a drug. They challenged council to think of one benefit of recreational use of cannabis, with a strong belief that no one would be able to come up with one. They also said that they think part of the reason Council is going this direction is for the added income to the community. On that note, they cited that the love of money is the root of all evil.
Rick Thompson spoke in person saying that he thinks that it is time that the village helps provide a way for people to legally purchase cannabis. He said that currently, the only way for people to buy it here in town is illegally. He asked if there was a map showing where the restricted zones are, and EDO Karen Dube responded by saying there is a map that will be made available to the public if the bylaw is passed.
Linda Fry spoke through the ZOOM platform. She said that in her personal opinion, McBride does not need a dispensary. There is one in Valemount, and that is close enough. She would like to see, instead of a bylaw passed, a procedure instated that requires those interested in opening an establishment to apply for a development permit and go through the public hearing process so that the community could have a say in where and when a retail shop comes to town.
Tabatha Reis, on behalf of Little Munchkins, presented a proposal for a space to build a daycare centre through the renovation of the “Old Farm Store” at 1032 2nd ave. Council voted on this item later in the agenda.
Questions from Public and Press
Linda Fry once again spoke. She expressed gratitude that the village applied for and received a $100,000 grant through the Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program – Economic Capacity Stream. She said that she hoped the village would work to hire a consultant that was either local, or familiar with local quirkiness. She wondered if the position could work with the Visitor Centre.
Russ Purvis spoke next through Zoom. He paralleled Fry’s thoughts. He said that previously he felt there was a lot of discomfort with the past consultant and the master plan. He does not see bringing in an outside consultant resulting in anything good.
“Made in the Valley, made in McBride,” was his suggestion.
Rick Thompson addressed Council on the manner of an upcoming meeting that Council will be having with Cathy Ulrich President and Chief Executive Officer and Colleen Nyce, Northern Health Board Chair. He suggested that Council address the pressure that he has heard about from Valemount to move more medical services there. He asked that Council make it clear that McBride wants more, not less services, to help attract people to the community.
Community to Community
Council directed staff to submit an application to UBCM’s Regional Community to Community Program 2023/24 for $7,653 and agreed to support overall grant management.
Meeting with Northern Health
Council directed administration to book a meeting for Council with Northern Health President Cathy Ulrich and Colleen Nyce. Council appreciated Thompson’s earlier comments and approved the topic of not just preserving the medical services in McBride, but expressing the desire of the community to improve what is available to residents and tourists alike.
Yellowhead Highway concerns
Council confirmed that they want to submit a Resolution to the 2023 Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway Association Annual General meeting to address the following concerns: the location of the flashing yellow warning lights before the lights on the highway, the installation of a normal traffic light at the intersection of the highway and main street, questionable timing of road repairs resulting in poor quality, and cell service between Prince George and the Alberta border.
Childcare facility planning
In response to Reis’ presentation and proposal, Council directed staff to bring options back to Council regarding the use of 1032 2nd Ave for a childcare facility.
Beautification Committee appointments
Council appointed Allan Frederick and Travis Feltham to the McBride Community Revitalization and Beautification Committee. These spots were previously vacant. The appointment of Frederick and Feltham leaves only one remaining empty seat.
Regional Business Liaison Program
Council directed staff to write a letter of support to Northern Development Initiative trust in support of the Community Futures Fraser-Fort George’s application to their Regional Business Liaison Program. This program was run in the Robson Valley from August 2020-May 2021 with a Regional Business Liaison hired out of Valemount. This individual worked to support businesses and organizations through finding funding opportunities, building support from Economic Development Officers and by taking unique needs and challenges further “up the chain.”
Council moved to proceed to In-Camera for consideration of matters of the Community Charter related to Section 90 (1) (c) Labour Relations of other employee relations, (e) the acquisition, disposition of expropriation of land or improvements, if the council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality, (i) the receipt of advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose; and (k) negotiations and related discussions respecting the proposed provision of a municipal service that are at their preliminary stage and that, in the view of the council, could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality if they were held in public.
The public portion of the meeting was adjourned at 8:37pm.