Candidate challenges Persephone at SCRD

West Howe Sound

In an unusual twist, West Howe Sound’s only candidate for director at the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) appeared before the SCRD planning committee last week to voice his concern with a business within the electoral area in which he is running.

Mark Hiltz, a resident in Area A, spoke as a delegation on behalf of a cluster of residents living near Persephone Brewing Company. The business is located on 11 acres of Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land on Stewart Road in West Howe Sound. In addition to brewery facilities, the business operates hop yards, a market garden, an orchard and raises laying hens. Persephone is currently applying for a variance permit from the SCRD to increase seating and the size of the outdoor lounge. They have also asked the SCRD to review its proposal to amend the current liquor licence to expand activities.

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While advisory committees on the Coast supported or did not object to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) endorsements and development variance permit, subject to certain conditions, the SCRD did receive letters from neighbouring residents that raised concerns with the business.

Hiltz is one such neighbour, and spoke on behalf of other residents at the Sept. 6 committee. He said while the neighbourhood approves of the agricultural production on the property, neighbours have concerns that are “directly related to the increase in size and scale” of the alcohol production facility. He acknowledged the brewery is permitted use on ALR land but that “it is questionable whether the management of the waste products from the facility is a normal farm practice.” Neighbours are also concerned with, among other things, drainage and water quality, late night noise, increased traffic, odour and litter.

Following Hiltz’s presentation, outgoing West Howe Sound director Ian Winn suggested the decision on whether to grant the variance permit be deferred and the lounge and picnic liquor licence endorsement not be supported “pending receipt of confirmation from Vancouver Coastal Health that the wastewater treatment system, the alcohol production facility and ancillary uses is functioning as per design specifications … and poses no health risk.”

Winn said the recommendations could serve in part as a “cooling off period” for the neighbours and that “trust has to be rebuilt,” because neighbours fear that Persephone is aiming to establish itself as a “full scale pub.”

Roberts Creek director Mark Lebbell noted the incongruity between how Persephone is seen by its immediate neighbours versus by the broader community, while Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis said the dissatisfaction of neighbours is growing.

“I think it’s really important that some time is spent to mend some fences,” Lewis said.

The motion was carried, and Winn said it could take up to a year to meet the conditions. This, however, means that if elected, Hiltz will likely be voting on whether to approve the variance permit and liquor endorsement.

Prior to the meeting, Hiltz acknowledged the potential for conflict. “I think the first thing to do is declare,” he told Coast Reporter. “You have to be up front.” He said he doesn’t live immediately adjacent to Persephone and a potential financial impact isn’t clear. “My assessment keeps going up; it doesn’t seem to be affecting my property values.”

When asked prior to the meeting whether if elected Hiltz would see this as a potential conflict, he said, “I’d have to say you gotta see the report, I gotta be in the position, and I have to seek advice. That’s the best I can do in terms of what might happen in the future.”

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