Documents on drug store ban still under wraps

Mission CAO says clarification on release is required

District of Mission

District of Mission

The District of Mission still has not released any information about why the last council banned pharmacies and medical clinics from downtown, or how much that decision cost taxpayers when the district lost the challenge in court.

About a month ago, the previous Mission council unanimously approved a motion by former councillor Nelson Tilbury to release all correspondence, including letters, emails and legal opinions, related to the “drug store issue.”

According to Mission’s chief administrative officer Ken Bjorgaard, staff have been gathering information but need to clarify the motion before anything is disseminated.

“Our lawyer considered (the motion) and said it has to be more specific,” said Bjorgaard,

All the information related to the pharmacy have been kept behind closed doors, even after the case wrapped up in court.

“Legal opinions are subject to closed meetings,” said Bjorgaard, who plans to discuss the issue with the new council in private.

Newly elected Mayor Randy Hawes told The Record he is “not happy” the information has not been made public yet.

“It will be coming,” he stated. “We (the new council) intend to be as transparent and open as possible.”

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 believed the ban is based on unfounded community rumours that it would be a marijuana clinic and needle exchange.

Mission council passed the bylaw two months later, with two councillors opposing the move.

The property 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.