Chance for community engagement on controversial subjects
Sitting in council meetings for the past three years I’ve gained respect for the work done by the municipality. But recent actions from some councillors seem hypocritical at best and a conflict of interest at worst.
From the day cannabis was legalized I was curious who would come forward for cannabis retail in Sun Peaks. It’s something that has the potential to be lucrative, especially for the first to open.
I believe our community should always be aware of and engaged with council but especially now, with such a controversial topic.
In February, our mayor and council received the first application to rezone a lot to allow cannabis retail.
It was submitted by Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR), who owns the lot in question but exactly who will operate the store or if the application will move forward is still unclear.
During the February meeting councillors discussed many traffic concerns, but to be blunt the application was lacking important information. With those challenges and others, Mayor Al Raine suggested they ask for more information and council unanimously gave first reading to move the application forward, councillor O’Toole was not present for the application
Two months later a second application for a different location came before council from residents Kyle Vike and Sonya Trevisi.
Their application detailed parking and traffic flow with a report from a road engineer, security, beautification of the property, staff training, anti-smoking signage and more.
Despite providing far more information than the SPR application, Alexander said he was concerned about the proposal and questioned if the community needed cannabis retail despite the rezoning handling only land use, not the morality of cannabis.
But he and councillor Rob O’Toole, who is also employed by SPR, indirectly through the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel, voted against the first two readings despite the amount of information and support to move forward from the mayor and other councillors.
The opposed votes surprised me, and others, after the unanimous decision for the first application made by SPR.
Alexander said he didn’t think the second application had received the same amount of scrutiny as the first. O’Toole said he had conducted additional research and was approached by community members opposed to cannabis.
The complete reversal between the votes with weak reasoning makes me question if either might feel pressure from their lives outside council which is impacting their choices.
Over the years I’ve watched councillors recuse themselves from votes many times, for conflicts that would have a much smaller impact than this.
Whether either councillor has a conflict in this case I can’t say definitively, but I know how it looks from the outside when both SPR employees on council vote for their employer’s application and against their employer’s potential competition, especially when the competition arguably had a stronger application.
Tonight (June 4), the second application will be discussed at a public hearing to give the community a chance to share. As residents or homeowners this is your opportunity to be engaged and pay attention to your representatives.
In a small community people wear many hats which can cause conflicts to arise and we trust elected officials will make the right choice. However it’s important to be aware of their actions and take an active role by voicing any concerns.
The hearing won’t be the last we hear of this issue. As people who are privileged and proud to call Sun Peaks home, participate in public discussions and shape what we want to see in our community now and in the future.
The public hearing takes place June 4, 5:30 p.m. at the Hearthstone Lodge and will also be livestreamed by Sun Peaks News.
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