Victoriaville shows muscle. As the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) branch is likely to leave the city centre, the municipality has announced it will adopt a by-law to block the state company’s path.
What to know:
- The Société des Alcohols du Québec (SAQ) wants to move its branch from downtown Victoriaville to an area on the outskirts.
- The municipality’s mayor, Antoine Tardif, publicly condemned the state agency’s decision last week, believing it to be completely contrary to government trends in terms of land use planning.
- Indeed, Quebec refers to the importance of revitalizing regional city centers in its National Architecture and Land Use Planning Policy (PNAAT).
During Monday evening’s municipal council meeting, Mayor Antoine Tardif presented a draft regulation to be approved by mid-October to amend the municipality’s zoning.
The amendment would have the effect of “prohibiting businesses engaged in the sale of alcoholic beverages except in the areas that make up the regional commercial center along Arthabasca Boulevard and the city center.”
In other words, everywhere except where the two SAQ branches in Victoriaville currently are.
“As municipal elected officials, we have the authority to develop our territory according to our zoning regulations to identify the different uses we see for different types of businesses,” explained Antoine Tardif in a speech to the municipal council.
“In this case, we clearly indicate the places where we look for businesses specializing in the sale of alcoholic products that are developing in our territory,” he continued.
The SAQ will stick to its positions
The announcement follows a public outing by his side last week to condemn the SAQ branch’s planned move from its municipality’s city center to a peripheral area. According to him, the decision of the state company is completely contrary to the government’s direction in terms of territorial development.
The city’s strategies, announced Monday evening, however, did not sway the SAQ. A spokeswoman for the Crown corporation, Genevieve Cormier, confirmed she still expects to move forward with the move of the downtown branch.
“We understand the concerns of the Mayor of Victoriaville and are sensitive to them. We have maintained our intention because the environment we wanted when we established the SAQ branch is to complement the food product sales areas in our customers’ shopping journey,” she explained.
Crown Corporation has not indicated whether Victoriaville will consider challenging the new regulation in court if it does go ahead.
If so, there’s a good chance the regulation will end up in court, where it’s easily invalidated, predicts Mario Paul-Hus, the municouncil’s lead attorney with nearly forty years of experience in municipal law.
“We have always said that a municipal by-law should not be aimed at one person only. […] “Adopting a measure that prohibits the SAQ from moving doesn’t pass the test,” he said, but attention should be paid to the way the regulations are written.
The City of Victoriaville said it consulted legal experts before submitting the draft by-law and is confident of its legality.
A mechanism is also provided to allow exceptions to the rule for a bar, for example, that wants to establish outside the city center limits. Its promoters need only submit their project to the Town Planning Committee, who will study them individually and may recommend some.
A call to the minister
The Victoriaville Municipal Council on Monday evening appealed to Municipal Affairs Minister Andre Laforest to intervene in the matter.
Municipal elected officials passed a resolution calling for an urgent overhaul of Legault’s government State Corporations Governance Act To compel the SAQ and its peers to respect its orientations in terms of land use planning.
Eric Girard, head of the Finance Minister’s office and the SAQ, announced on Tuesday that no such amendment was planned.