Food for thought

Last February, as in February 2010, Town of Smithers council told the community that their new goal was to be more business friendly.

It’s a task they appeared to take seriously. When Heidi Westfall spoke to council at their February meeting, Mayor Cress Farrow said she could return in a year’s time and “be our report card.”

It’s been over a year since those statements were made and now council is caught in a quagmire over how to handle mobile businesses.

Speaking up against proposed changes is the owners of Bugwood Bean. You may have wandered past their mobile restaurant, where they serves mainly coffee, on Main Street last weekend.

Town council is considering ways to limit where in the community they can operate. As it stands, they need to keep about 30 metres away from fixed location restaurants, cafes and dining lounges, among other named locations.

Council is looking to effectively double the distance she’d be allowed to operate from another fixed food business.

Councillors said that it’s a way to show due respect to those businesses which pay taxes year-round.

While they’re clearly trying to be business friendly with established businesses, they’re doing so by coming down hard on new businesses.

A 60 metre buffer would effectively mean there are no places to set up anywhere in town that would be worthwhile for a business.

That’s bad news for potential-business operators. It comes across as punishment for anyone trying to do anything to drive up traffic in the town’s commercial centre.

And, like it or not for the existing businesses, they need all the competition they can get. Competition, anywhere, is good for the consumer and it forces companies to continually improve.

Council needs to find a way to be business friendly without being exclusive.

As an aside I’d like to note that the town is now saying that they can’t enforce a 60 metre gap within the business license bylaw. I looked, and the current 30 metre rule is in the existing business license bylaw right now.

That means for however long the town’s been sitting on a bylaw they had no way of enforcing in the first place.

Cameron Orr is the editor of The Interior News and writes the regular On the Line column.