Medical clinics will now be allowed to open in all of Cape Breton Regional Municipality's residential zones, despite objections from some residents, municipal planning staff and one councillor.
Council voted Tuesday to approve a request by Dr. Margaret Fraser, who wants to relocate her family practice to a home on Cottage Road in Sydney from near the regional hospital, but for that to happen, the municipal planning strategy had to change.
Coun. Steve Gillespie voted against the move, saying businesses should not be allowed in residential neighbourhoods.
He also said public input was inadequate due to COVID-19 restrictions and council should wait until the pandemic is over to ensure all of the public has had their say.
Deputy Mayor Earlene MacMullin said CBRM has to carry on with public business.
"To hold off on this particular item until we can meet in person?" she said. "Well over 14 months ago, we all thought that would be in two weeks and you know, here we are almost a year and a half later, we can't very well stop. Certain things have to function."
Gillespie said he received a number of calls from residents, including some in the Cottage Road neighbourhood, who were opposed to the change, but felt they didn't have enough time or opportunity to take part in a public hearing.
CBRM planning staff also opposed changing the planning strategy, saying the move could have wide-ranging implications across the municipality.
However, under questioning by Gillespie, planner Kristen Knudskov said staff followed all of the usual requirements to hold a public hearing and even exceeded them.
She also said the response to a public participation program earlier this year was the largest CBRM has ever received.
Staff recommended deferral
Knudskov said staff recommended deferring a decision on the change until a review of all parts of the planning strategy is done.
That review is expected to get underway later this year and be finished late next year.
At the public hearing this week, CBRM received three submissions in favour of allowing medical clinics in residential zones and nine opposed.
Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger said despite that result, he also received calls from residents and the majority are in favour.
"What I've heard loud and clear from residents is that we need doctors in CBRM ... and we have to do whatever we can to entice them to come to our communities," he said.
Coun. Glenn Paruch, whose district includes Cottage Road, said some residents near the proposed clinic are opposed to the change, but the majority of his constituents are supportive.
Knudskov said the change would not immediately create problems in all residential neighbourhoods because doctors still have to meet parking requirements and other zoning regulations.
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