The location of Innovation Foods on Fulton Avenue has proved difficult for Smithers town council, but a creative solution proposed by town planner Alison Walker will be inherited by the new mayor and council, after the previous council passed a motion at their final regular meeting on November 8.
Although the motion passed, it was not passed unanimously or without debate. Councillor Charlie Northrup said he thought either spot zoning the property or changing the allowable uses for the entire zone to include ‘food exchanges’ was unfair to other businesses that had been told to move in the past after locating in the wrong zone.
Councillor Frank Wray admitted that the potential solutions are “a bit of a runaround,” but also pointed out that council allowed them to stay in the current location for the next three years on a Temporary Use Permit, and if a permanent solution isn’t found, the organization will have to pack up shop and move again. He also pointed out it’s unlikely another organization will use the changes to the zoning rules for a similar purpose.
“Are we going to have a competing social service? I don’t think so,” he said.
Outgoing councillor Lorne Benson noted that the potential solutions were drawn up at the request of council, and that council had committed to resolving the situation by the end of their term this month.
“We asked our staff…to come up with a creative solution, and that’s what we have here now,” he said. “I think these people do need to have some certainty in their business.”
Northrup said he believed Innovation Foods was getting special treatment due to the fact that they’re a non-profit social service, and said he thinks zoning should apply to every business, no matter which part of the population they serve.
“I understand and I agree that Innovation Foods and the people they serve, everything about that is right. But what I don’t agree with is, there was a zone, and there’s a proper zone for all that to take place. They relocated out in an industrial zone, went ahead without a building permit and invested $100,000, and they took a risk. Now we’re stuck with resolving the problem,” he said. “It’s a great way to resolve it, but it’s not fair and right compared to what we’ve done in previous actions with others.”
Council passed the motion to amend the M-1 zone to include food exchanges, and allow Innovation Foods to continue to offer their services. A maximum of either 10 per cent of a building’s gross floor area, or 1,000 square feet, whichever is less, would be allowed for retail sales. The new council will still need to give the bylaw amendment final reading.
Outgoing mayor Cress Farrow after the meeting said he hopes the zoning amendment will pass, so High Roads Society, which runs Innovation Foods, can continue offering their services.
“I really hope that the newly elected council puts this to rest. That service is so invaluable to our community. High Roads Society is doing so much for a segment of our community that is not ever going to be in the mainstream work force,” he said.