Bad move on quota decision
Banff council, in our opinion, has done a disservice to its residents and businesses by failing to have a formal public discussion at this time on the idea of a quota system or cap for chain restaurants and stores.
On a 4-2 vote, council failed to pass first reading of a bylaw that would have defined what a chain business is, in which district quotas would apply and what level of quota would be implemented.
We have openly praised this particular council on its openness and transparency, and while not always agreeing with the outcome of its decisions, credit its ability to often tackle the tough issues.
And while not everyone may be happy with the outcome of a decision last November against an outright ban on corporate giants, council rightly made the decision to deal with that once and for all.
At that same meeting, council – with the exception of Paul Baxter – directed administration to come up with options for a quota system and some sort of public consultation to go along with it.
On Monday, administration brought a detailed report to council for its consideration, including options for quotas, and a recommendation for a public hearing in September.
But the process didn’t get out of the starting blocks.
Among the reasons against moving ahead at this time was the fact council had earlier that day agreed to do an economic prosperity strategy, and were busy with the Land Use Bylaw and, therefore, the timing was not right.
Yes, council has some big issues on its plate right now, but one could argue the timing might never be good, as council is always busy, whether it’s with community plans, budgets or day-to-day business of a tourist town.
The regulation of corporate giants – although it started off with just formula fast food joints as part of the official Land Use Bylaw – has long been discussed in the community amid concerns for community character and loss of mom and pop shops.
In fact, this issue has been brewing for more than a decade, and culminated in a 2007 community meeting after the news Indigo was coming to town. The officials of the day committed to a formal public discussion.
Since then, there has been endless input – on both sides of this public policy debate – and it’s time a decision on regulating corporate giants be made to be fair to the community. It’s gone on too long.
The Town of Banff has been given legal advice indicating they are on solid legal ground to regulate formula-based businesses, and now it comes down to political will.
Mayor Karen Sorensen says the discussion on quotas is not off the table, which we are pleased to hear, but as it stands right now, there is no timeline for further formal discussion.
We can only hope that Councillor Chip Olver, who was absent from the vote, or one of the opposing councillors during last Monday’s vote, will bring the bylaw back for reconsideration. They can do so under Banff’s procedural bylaw.
Councillors don’t have to support a quota system, but if the bylaw can at least get past first reading, the public can be formally presented with the options drafted in administration’s report, or any tweaks council wishes to make.
Once council hears the views of its constituents, councillors can make their decision. We know it’s a tough debate, but at some point, Banff’s elected representatives simply must make a decision either way.
We believe it would be good if this council – which is so intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the Land Use Bylaw and discussion on this issue – does so before next year’s municipal election, otherwise it will likely be an issue then.
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