Opposition to new liquor store comes before appeal board

Businessman Guy Meunier (left) talks to Morinville Christian School Principal Lou Brunelle (right) during a break in an appeal board meeting Monday night. Brunelle and his school are opposed to Meunier's proposed Liquor on main business.

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – About 50 people packed into Morinville Council Chambers Monday night to hear an appeal by Morinville Christian School Principal Lou Brunelle to halt a proposed liquor store to be built at the Shell gas station on 100 Avenue.

Brunelle’s appeal, brought before the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, challenged the decision of the Municipal Planning Commission to grant a development permit to Guy Meunier for a proposed minor liquor sales and minor eating and drinking establishment.

The school principal said the appeal was not intended to be personal towards Meunier and that he regarded him as a good and decent man who was a good corporate citizen. “I’ve yet to find anybody who has a negative thing to say about Guy,” Brunelle said, adding he and his school would support the local businessman on any other business venture he proposed for the location, but not liquor.

Brunelle said his school, Morinville Christian fellowship and Kangaroos Day Care were all concerned about increased traffic in an already congested area. But traffic was not Brunelle’s only concern with the notion of a liquor establishment close to his school.

“We’re also very, very concerned about the type of business that this is, the danger it presents and the message it sends out to the community,” Brunelle told the appeal board, adding although he was not there to moralize, he believed everyone knows of a family devastated by the ravages of alcohol. “Our primary issue is then with the wisdom, the judgement and the rationale to put a minor liquor sales venue right in the middle of not one but several child and teen institutions used on a daily basis.”

Brunelle said he presumed the decision to allow the development permit was profit driven and did not take into consideration the 55 daycare students, 35 Christian school students and approximately 90 teens who use the youth centre, all of whom are within metres of the proposed venue.

“I don’t believe there is a parent or student or staff member involved with any of these institutions that is comfortable with this proposed business venture in this location,” Brunelle said, adding many are upset and angry that a development permit was granted, some going so far as to boycott the Shell station.

The Christian school principal asked rhetorically if the Town of Morinville would have approved such a venue being developed near Georges P. Vanier, Notre Dame or one of Morinville’s other schools. But beyond any perceived slight against the Christian school, Brunelle questioned what kind of message Morinville was trying to send young families. The principal said with the approval of Meunier’s liquor store and the liquor store scheduled to open in the former Fields Department Store location; Morinville will have five alcohol sales venue, an increase of 66 per cent.

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“I think we all like to believe we are a family friendly town with family values,” Brunelle said. “Expanding this particular type of business I find very perplexing and rather disappointing. When you add the other liquor establishments such as Rednex, the Zoo and others, we now have more liquor venues in this town than churches.”

Greg Fraser, the senior pastor at Morinville Christian Fellowship, also spoke against the proposed liquor store. The pastor said his church has created programs for area youth to let them know they are cared for and loved and that there was a God who knew their name and had a purpose and plan for their lives.

“We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars as a church to reach this community’s youth to help them,” Fraser said, adding nurturing children is important to the church and community. “The thought of putting a liquor store within a few hundred feet of these children seems to be a gross dereliction of our duty to protect them.”

The pastor went on to outline scenarios whereby a drunk driver en route to buy another bottle of vodka ploughed into a group of unsuspecting children on their way from the splash park, adults buying liquor for underage drinkers or a drunk teenager accosting a group of 12-year-old girls. Fraser said he was not being overly dramatic in presenting the scenarios, but felt to discount their possibility would be overly naïve.

Other speakers opposing the liquor venue ranged from general concerns about increased traffic to a former RCMP officer equating the selling of alcohol so close to a school with the selling of illegal narcotics near a school yard.

As for Guy Meunier himself, the long-time businessman said he would run the liquor business as he had run his existing business and that in 15 years his company had been caught selling cigarettes to a minor only once, a remarkable accomplishment in the industry. Meunier said he had followed all the procedures properly in applying for the permit and that he intended to follow all the rules and regulations of Alberta Gaming and Liquor. Meunier said he would be happy to work with the church to educate and make people aware of the dangers of alcohols

The businessman said he felt somewhat targeted given the fact alcohol was available at Rednex and two nearby restaurants already.

The SDAB is expected to make a ruling on the appeal within two weeks. Brunelle is set to make a presentation before Morinville Town Council Tuesday night.

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8 Comments

  1. I welcome the efforts of the Morinville Christian School and especially Mr. Brunelle. I am one of those many families in this town that are and/or have been affected by alchohol. It seems like there is a place in every corner of this town that one can either drink or buy alchohol. I fully support the efforts of this appeal to oppose this.

  2. Seems to me that Guy Meunier has every right to open a liquor sales establishment at his commercially zoned property. It is a persons choice wether or not they can purchase and consume alcohol. Picture this scenario. I stop on my way home after a long hard week at work pick up a pack of smokes, lotto max ticket, and a case of beer within walking distance. All while supporting local business and not hurting a soul.

  3. Dear Editor:

    I find it wrong when an honest businessman has to fight for his rights to conduct business, which by Federal, Provincial and Municipal laws is legal. I can understand fully why the Christian Group is opposed to this development but I think their efforts could be better directed at putting these Alcohol related venues out of business through providing education and awareness.

    The Christian school principal asked rhetorically if the Town of Morinville would have approved such a venue being developed near Georges P. Vanier, Notre Dame or one of Morinville’s other schools.
    In actual fact they have: The Morinville Community Cultural Centre, owned and operated by the Town of Morinville, located on the High School property comes complete with full bar set up. Of course they plan on it not being open when school is in session, (but I think this would depend on those paying the money to rent) however nothing was said about through the summer and weekends when kids typically hang about the school grounds, especially for soccer tournaments. Potential for drunks, increased traffic and children all in one area, absolutely.

    So it will be interesting to see what the out come of this Appeal Board is. If it denies the permit then they’re hypocrites as they apporved the same to continue at the High School and if they let the permit stand then they it clearly show a lack of concern for citizen groups who only want to protect our children and improve morality.

    Tim Stirling

  4. How appropriate is it for a Christian School to be located in a commercial strip mall next to a busy road? Did they not consider the types of business that may potentially move in to the units around them when they moved in to this facility?

    Given the design and original intent of the complex Shell and the Christian School are located in I would suggest the Christian School take a long hard look at why they are in thier current facility and what options they may have to re-locate to a more appropriate complex.

    Let’s not punish a hard working local businessman who is trying to make a living in a competitive market for wanting to add a service to his business. If Guy thinks he can operate this business in a safe and secure fashion (his record over the previous 20 years in Morinville indicates that he can), then I’d say go for it and best of luck to you.

  5. I agree with Neil R, this is a commercial strip….A commercial strip should be utilized for businesses only. I’m sorry, but it just seems to me that the churches in this town just have to challenge anything & everything. As for stating that they are going to boycott the Shell station, come on…Guy is a hard working man….stop being so childish!

  6. Dear Editor,

    I give koodos to Guy for applying to open a liquor store. I would give him koodos for opening any business because he has been so successful, he is community driven and he knows what it takes to make a business survive and he takes care of his customers. Why did he choose a liquor store you ask? Well, because he knows not many other business’ will survive in Morinville when you have a Wal-mart just a short drive down the highway.
    Guy has stated that he is willing to work with the church in educating minors about the dangers of alcohol when it’s abused, which I feel says a lot about the type of people the Meunier’s are but is it the liquor store’s place to do the educating?? Absolutely not, when is the responsibility going to be put back on the parents? If they would spend some time with their children and educate them about the dangers of abusing alcohol then this really wouldn’t be an issue. Do these parents know where their kids are at ten o’clock on a Friday night? Obviously not if their worried about them hanging outside a liquor store.
    The Meunier’s have followed every law and every code when applying for this business; they have recieved numerous awards in the service industry; they have donated a lot of time and money into helping the community and they have only been tagged once, that’s right, once in 15 years of operation for selling cigarettes to a minor – that’s incredible stats.
    The town of Morinville and the community should be proud to have him operating another business.

  7. Dear Editor,

    Business is business, I work for a financial company in Edmonton. Our office is located in a strip mall.In this strip mall we have a place called High Run Bar & Gril a pool hall. Right next door to this pool hall THAT SERVES ALCOHOL is a day care center that houses numerous children.

    As it stands I have yet to see any impact that a Bar right next to the day care has made on any one of the children attending it.

    If kids are getting the proper education and parents are being responsible for there childs actions then having a Liquor Store next to the Shell in a commercial business strip mall should make absolutely no impact on these kids.

    A liquor store doesnt serve alcohol it sells it, it leaves the store in a brown or blacked out form of bag. Not like a pool hall that serves alcohol and people are leaving half cut.

    I am in favor for Guy. A ridiculous argument will not get my favor.

  8. Trust this will work out to perfection….similar situation in Atlantic Canada .. Within a year or so the business terminated and the building is currently for sale. Prayer changes things and can bring peaceful resolutions.

    Blessings

    d.

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