Turning the former United Church building into a drinking establishment is not popular with many residents in the neighbourhood.
Not only did nine residents of 2nd Avenue submit letters to the Queen Charlotte Management Committee with concerns about late-night noise and parking issues at a recent Legion sponsored event, but a complaint from the Haida Gwaii Youth Society arrived as well.
Teen society board member Jill Drover is concerned about the impact of a licensed facility operating across from the Teen Centre. On Remembrance Day, she said in her written complaint, cars lined both sides of the streets and filled the Teen Centre parking lot from noon until after midnight. The Teen Centre was open during some of these hours.
She also alleged someone from the management committee told the Legion during its quest to purchase the building that the Teen Centre on 2nd Avenue would be re-locating.
She demanded to know where this information came from, since the South End Teen Centre has never entertained the notion of re-locating.
Committee member Ron McKee said, although he had not relayed the information to the Legion, the first time he heard the idea was at an all-island teen meeting in Tlell, where the 26 teens were asked if they would like to move closer to the new skateboard park.
“There was a roar of approval,” he said.
Legion secretary-treasurer Andree Elliott says the club put in to purchase the building in June and had to fight with their head office to get the funds they had from the sale of their old building. She said there was no condition from head office about the Teen Centre as Ms Drover suggests in her letter.
“It is our money and it belongs to our branch. We feel the Legion has been a good organization to the community and for the community,” she said.
The Legion was attracted to the property because of the small hall and kitchen and hopes to provide a nice place to have a drink and special meals.
“Our hopes are to operate the license on occasion,” she said. The hall will also be available for rent for community events, like bake sales, bazaars and funerals.
“Everyone is saying it is going to be a place for drunks. But that is not the intention,” she says.
The Queen Charlotte Branch of the Legion is applying for a liquor licence and its application will have to go through the same process as other businesses have been through.
She is aware residents are concerned about the license after the Remembrance Day event, but she thinks the concerns are unfounded. Remembrance Day is their day, she says. It is what Legions are all about. The band played until 11:45 pm out of respect for the neighbours, she said. She stayed at the door until 3 am herself, and said there was “no one falling out the doors and onto neighbours’ lawns,” as some have alleged.
“If they would stop and think about the boys out in the trenches having bombs dropped around their heads and compare that to the little bit of noise,” she said.
She also thinks parking issues will be addressed in the licensing process as well. Residents said their driveways were blocked and there wasn’t enough room for a fire truck to pass through the street on Remembrance Day.
Some Legion members wanted to meet with residents to ease their concerns, but Ms Elliott suggested they leave it for the public meeting, which is part of the application process.
“Some of them are mad, some of us are mad. If you don’t have it in a controlled setting you’re going to have war,” she said.
The Legion, which has been operating on the islands since 1947, purchased the building from the United Church. The sale went through November 15. It’s applying for the maximum hours possible for a liquor licence, in order to keep options open.
The management committee decided to forward the residents concerns to the new council, which meets December 7. In the meantime, Carol Kulesha wrote a letter of support to Gwaii Trust for the Legion’s $66,000 proposal to renovate and furnish the building, with condition that the project fit within the Official Community Plan and the proper licensing process has been followed.
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