A proposal that would’ve allowed private liquor stores to more easily set up shop in certain areas of Surrey – and without any public consultation – was shot down by city council Monday night.
Surrey council voted unanimously against the proposed zoning changes on Oct. 21, including Councillor Mandeep Nagra who previously told the Now-Leader he was behind the idea.
The vote came after a public hearing in which a half a dozen residents voiced strong opposition to the idea, mainly stressing that access to alcohol didn’t need to be increased, and that the public should have a say in where such establishments are located. Among them was former Surrey First councillor Mike Starchuk, and Devon McGuire, who is owner of Revolution Recovery that runs three operations in Surrey.
If approved, two city zones would have been amended to allow for private liquor stores to operate, specifically, the C-5 (neighbourhood commercial) and CH1 (commercial industrial) zones. Operators would have still been subject to provincial approval, but would not have needed to go through a rezoning process at city hall and would only need to obtain a business license.
Amid a cannabis shop ban in the city, Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke had previously questioned the move, saying it would not make the city safer.
City staff also recommended against the idea, saying this move would “create additional potential locations for private liquor stores throughout the city, without individual zoning applications required.” Staff noted this option would have expanded potential liquor stores “considerably, and onto sites in the city that are not within town centres or part of a community shopping centre where they are considered to be most appropriate.”
At a council meeting early in October council, the four Safe Surrey councillors and Mayor Doug McCallum voted to move the proposal forward to the Oct. 21 public hearing.
At the hearing, Starchuk told council of his “strong opposition” to the proposed changes that he said would “have the potential to see 238 retail liquor stores invade our city without any future public consultation.”
He told council he was “at a loss” as to the reasoning behind the idea.
Prior to the meeting Nagra told the Now-Leader he had hoped the move could stimulate job creation in Surrey. Starchuk questioned that, asking why, then, other job creation opportunities were being shot down.
“Why did we say no to ride share, why did we say no to Cloverdale arena? So if this is about jobs, why are we not talking about it?” he questioned, later adding the idea “is as crazy as bringing a canal or amalgamating with the City of White Rock.”
“Listen to the public, listen to the staff, vote this down so it never sees the light of day,” he urged council.
Recover home operator McGuire told city council at the hearing that he works primarily with men suffering from alcoholism.
“They live and recover in residential areas,” he said, adding that making alcohol “more accessible than it already is seems kind of unnecessary.”
Ed MacIntosh, president of the Fraser Heights Community Association, also urged council to vote the idea down. He spoke of a “vehemently” opposed liquor store application a few years ago in his community that residents urged the council of the day to deny, which they did. He said the public should remain involved in the decision-making process.
Before unanimously voting to nix the proposal, Nagra said “I’ve heard from the community and realize that the community is not ready to adopt this new bylaw, so I will not support this new bylaw.”
Councillor Brenda Locke – was the executive director of the BC Liquor Retailers Association for 15 years and spoke out against the idea earlier this month – also voiced her opposition in council chambers, saying we have “too many liquor stores as it is in this city” and that “we do not need any more.”
Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis also said she was opposed to the idea, saying Surrey doesn’t need to be known “as the liquor capital” of the Greater Vancouver area.
Independent Councillor Jack Hundial said residents have spoken, noted staff were unsupportive of the idea, and said it “runs counter” to the public safety platform many on council ran on.
VICTORY FOR SURREY RESIDENTS
October 21, 2019
Tonight’s motion to expand liquor retailers in Surrey without public consultation and contrary to staff recommendations was defeated. See our Press Release below.@brendalockebc@JanetBrown980@amyreid87 pic.twitter.com/eL2WhIL1sg
— Jack Hundial (@JackHundial) October 22, 2019
At the hearing, independent Councillor Steven Pettigrew said he was glad to see council shooting down the idea, and was pleased public would remain part of the process.
Mayor Doug McCallum also voiced opposition in council chambers.
“I actually have a long history when I was mayor before of not supporting liquor establishments, or not supporting gaming facilities in Surrey either. Certainly this one, by proposing a blanket zoning so you could apply liquor establishments without public input is not in the best interest of the City of Surrey,” he said.
Hundial also issued a press release after the meeting was adjourned, saying the decision to pull the plug on the idea was a “significant win in keeping Surrey safer,” noting that Safe Surrey councillors supported the early readings of the amendments in a 5-4 vote prior to the Oct. 21 meeting.
“However, the public of Surrey continue to rise and demanded to have their voices heard. This would not have happened without the public being engaged and advocating for wanting input into their communities,” his press release read.