by Colin Smith
A liquor store proposed for a new development on 100 Avenue has been given permission by Morinville Town Council following a public hearing that saw minimal public participation.
At its February 23 regular meeting Council approved an application by Atlas Premium Home Development Ltd. to build a shopping centre on the lot at the southwest corner of 100 Avenue and 107 Street.
At the same meeting, Administration recommended a special meeting on March 2 to deal with an application by Atlas for liquor sales to be a permitted use in the centre.
The video meeting on the application, set for 6 p.m. to allow for public participation, was advertised on Morinville Online and the Town’s website several days in advance. Notification letters were also delivered by hand on February 24 to property owners within 75 metres of the Atlas site.
However other than Larren Monti representing the applicant, the only person to take part in the meeting’s public hearing was Marc Meunier, whose family owns Legendary Liquor.
Monti told Council that the liquor store would occupy 2,800 square feet, two-thirds of the centre’s space.
Asked by Councillor Stephen Dafoe why Atlas told Administration a decision on the application was needed by March 5, he said the prospective tenant wanted to be in the building in order to meet Christmas sales timelines.
“I’m not going ahead with the building unless I have a tenant,” said Monti.
Legendary Liquor has two outlets in Morinville, including one at 10607-100 Avenue, across from the Atlas site.
In his presentation to Council, Meunier said his family has several concerns with the liquor sales use application.
He said conversations with suppliers of liquor to the Morinville market led to the conclusion that retail sales were saturated.
“They all believed that the opening of another retailer would result in the closing of one or more existing retail locations,” said Meunier. “This was witnessed first-hand in our community by the unfortunate closure of Spirits Liquor Mart shortly after the opening of the Legendary Liquor Westwinds Location.”
He added that another liquor outlet would mean that Morinville would have one store per 1,500 population, surpassing Spruce Grove, considered to have the most per capita in the region, with one for every 1,800 people.
Meunier also questioned the tight timeframe for the application.
“One week’s notice seems irresponsible of the developer and the potential tenant,” he said. “We believe that it is not nearly time for public consultation, in particular given COVID restrictions and the limits on the limits on the public’s ability to participate.”
Councillor Scott Richardson also stated his concern about the amount of notice provided to people potentially affected by having a liquor store in the development.
In response, Development Planner Tyler McNab stated that as this public hearing was not required by statute, but simply decided on by Council, there were no specific requirements for notification but Administration had made extensive efforts to get the word out as soon as possible.
Richardson also questioned whether liquor store customers driving into and out of the centre parking lot might result in traffic problems, particularly during rush hour on 100 Avenue.
McNab explained that while the entrance to the lot is from 107 Street, drivers will exit via 99A Avenue, which should reduce traffic issues. He noted that the difference in the number of visits to a liquor store versus a shopping centre, in general, is minimal.
Several councillors expressed appreciation of the new business being brought to Morinville by the development.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” said Mayor Barry Turner. “It’s wonderful to have new business in town and attract new tenants.”
The Council vote was six in favour of the application, with Councillor Scott Richardson opposed.
During the discussion, it was noted that this application received considerably more scrutiny than would ordinarily be the case because of its Site-Specific District zoning.
Replying to questions from Morinville Onlline, Brad White, Senior Manager, Planning and Economic Development, said that within the DC-4-2 Direct Control zoning district, discretionary land uses including “alcohol sales” are Council’s decision.
White said that If the property was zoned as general commercial, the application would likely be approved by the Planning and Economic Development Department and there would be public notification after the decision on all permits, then posted on the Town website.
“That type of permitting process would typically be handled in one to three business days with a completed application,” he said.
White also pointed out that Morinville does not have a bylaw or policy limiting the number of certain types of businesses, nor are there requirements for distancing between similar business types.