Despite concerns from neighbours, a divided Trust committee has lent its seal of approval to a Salt Spring brewery’s license expansion.
After a packed-house public comment period, where opponents of the Salt Spring Brewing Company’s plans pleaded for the expansion to be halted, the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) voted 2-1 in favour of indicating its support for the project to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.
Neighbourhood residents along Furness Road, many appearing alongside their young children, warned of noise, traffic and safety concerns stemming from increasing the number of potentially intoxicated patrons in the larger seating space, as well as of potential environmental impacts from the company’s modification of its licence to include a “lounge” endorsement.
And despite what seemed to be earnest efforts between residents and local staff to find agreement, the differences — described by one neighbour as a “gap in trust” largely blamed on the off-island owner — remained seemingly too broad to span, at least in advance of the LTC’s approval.
Head brewer Louis Hage said the company had taken to heart advice from the last LTC hearing, and explored the idea of a “good neighbour” agreement to help ameliorate some concerns from surrounding residents. But issues of the enforceability of such an agreement led to the brewery abandoning those plans.
Trustee Laura Patrick, who ultimately was the lone vote against the motion to pass along LTC’s approval, said she had hoped to see a stronger relationship between the business and the neighbourhood.
“I agree that this is a business that is important to the island,” said Patrick. “I’d like to have seen this [disagreement] resolved in a way that would have them working in synergy together; that would’ve given me the confidence to feel better [about approval].”
“I’m uncomfortable with the idea of passing this,” she continued, “and I’m sad to deny it. This is something I’d like to be supporting, but I want to see it formed as part of the neighbourhood.”
Trust staff noted the brewery had adopted other LTC recommendations, including building permanent signage to address speed and safety on the brewery property — and small signs to be placed on the tables within the brewery asking customers to drive slowly, keep noise down, respect the neighbours and park in the designated spaces. Trustee Jamie Harris seemed satisfied with these efforts, as well as the brewery staff’s assertions that the expansion would largely grow the business during the off season, rather than increase the number of tourists during peak summer months.
“This has been an ongoing business for years,” said Harris. “I really have confidence that they will be able to sort it out on their own. They’re taking steps to make good; the last thing on their mind is inflaming the local community. I’m encouraged, [and think] the brewery will do the right thing.”
Staff will now send a response to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, indicating the LTC recommends the brewery’s application be approved.