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Yarmouth resident angry with town over proposed new food bank location

Stephanie Eldridge speaking Tuesday evening, Sept. 19, at a meeting of the Town of Yarmouth's planning advisory committee.
Stephanie Eldridge speaking Tuesday evening, Sept. 19, at a meeting of the Town of Yarmouth's planning advisory committee.

YARMOUTH -- A resident living close to where the Yarmouth Food Bank wants to open a new facility is upset with the Town of Yarmouth’s handling of the issue, charging that the decision to have the food bank relocate to Herbert Street was made long before the required rezoning process.

Appearing before the town’s planning advisory committee Tuesday night, Stephanie Eldridge expressed concern about the traffic and noise that will result if the food bank is able to open at its new proposed site on Herbert Street (a former bakery outlet next to Coronation Park.)

The food bank has been renovating the building, even though the site has yet to be rezoned.

At its Sept. 19 meeting, the PAC made a recommendation to council that the town’s municipal planning strategy and land-use bylaw be amended to allow the food bank to open at its new site at 2 and 6 Herbert St.

The amendment’s first reading is scheduled for town council’s Sept. 21 meeting, with a public hearing on the issue expected at town’s council meeting of Oct. 12.

But Eldridge called the Tuesday’s PAC meeting a “sham,” saying the outcome seemed to have been decided months in advance.

Eldridge, who lives on Huntington Street (less than 60 feet from where the food bank wants to open), said Tuesday’s meeting was not about the food bank itself but about the location.

“The town of Yarmouth is using the volunteers and clients of the food bank as pawns in its game of doing whatever it wants,” Eldridge told the PAC. “With plenty of time to choose alternate locations that were zoned for the needs of an operating food bank, the town has chosen to instead push through their decision ... instead of following legal procedure. They’re brilliant manipulators who are counting on controlling public opinion by saying ‘Well, money has already been spent on renovation, it is ready to open and we don’t want the food distribution to be late.’ To use the clients as a bargaining chip is disgusting.”

For three decades, the Yarmouth Food Bank operated on Glebe Street, but there had been issues with that location, including dampness and lack of heat. A few months ago, the town offered to lease the Herbert Street building, which it owns, to the food bank for a dollar a month. The food bank had hoped to open at the new site in early September but the opening was delayed.

Eldridge acknowledged the importance of the food bank.

“The food bank is a needed organization and the people who work in them are amazing,” she said. “It’s about location. There are reasons why food banks in Canada must be legally zoned in either commercial or institutional zones. There’s a reason why the current zoning says that a food bank is illegal at 2 and 6 Herbert St.”

Eldridge was the only member of the public at Tuesday’s PAC meeting to speak about the Herbert Street rezoning.

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