District to release details on downtown drug store ban

Decision in 2012 led to lawsuit by pharmacy owners

Details that led the outgoing council’s decision to ban pharmacies and medical clinics from downtown, will be released to the public.

The ban resulted in a successful lawsuit by the owners of a pharmacy who wanted to open on First Avenue.

In one of Coun. Nelson Tilbury’s last moves on council on Nov. 3, he asked for all correspondence, including letters, emails, and legal opinions, related to the “drug store issue” to be released to the public.

“I support this being released if it is done so by our staff at city hall,” said Coun. Jenny Stevens, who didn’t want to see the issue on election material.

The motion was approved unanimously.

All the information related to the pharmacy has been kept confidential, even after the case wrapped up in court.

Mission’s chief administrative officer Ken Bjorgaard said staff will be looking for all the records, but could not estimate when the information will be released.

“We’re searching to see the extent of the records and to see if we have to get records from the archives,” said Bjorgaard. “It’s too soon to tell when it will be.”

In May 2012, Mission council introduced rezoning legislation to remove “pharmacy” and “medical clinic” from the core commercial downtown one zone, blocking the application of a proposed pharmacy at the site of the old community policing centre on First Avenue.

Life Pharmacy Inc. wanted to open a walk-in clinic and pharmacy downtown, providing vaccines, a diabetes clinic, heart clinic and prescription drugs, including methadone.

At a public hearing on the issue in June 2012, Life Pharmacy representatives said they purchased the building at 33133 First Avenue with the understanding they would be allowed to operate a pharmacy. They said there were unfounded community rumours that their enterprise would be a marijuana clinic and needle exchange.

Mission council passed the bylaw two months later, saying the move would help revitalize downtown. Couns. Jenny Stevens and Nelson Tilbury opposed the change as both felt it was aimed at one business.

The owner of the building, listed as 0773184 B.C. Ltd, launched legal action against the district in June 2012 after third reading of the bylaw was approved.

According to the petition in court, the numbered company purchased the property after it received assurances from the District of Mission that the intended use was permitted.

In March 2013, the B.C. Supreme Court ordered the District of Mission to issue a building permit for a medical clinic and pharmacy on First Avenue.