Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 10, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Neighbours still at odds over proposed resto-lounge in Nunavut capital

Big Racks Barbecue owner calls second public hearing for new building a “repeat”

Lower Base resident Stephen Leyden says the city should protect Iqaluit homeowners from commercial “encroachment.” (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Lower Base resident Stephen Leyden says the city should protect Iqaluit homeowners from commercial “encroachment.” (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
A second public hearing for a bigger restaurant in Iqaluit was well attended on May 8. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
A second public hearing for a bigger restaurant in Iqaluit was well attended on May 8. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

It was take two on Tuesday night for a public hearing over the proposed expansion of a restaurant in Iqaluit’s Lower Base neighbourhood.

The hour-and-a-half long hearing on May 8 gave Iqaluit residents a chance to air grievances over plans to rezone five downtown lots where Matt Wilkins of Big Racks Barbecue wants to build a larger restaurant and lounge.

Around 15 people attended the hearing, held in chambers at Iqaluit City Hall. In advance of the hearing, city administration sent notices to some 55 homes in the affected neighbourhood.

It was the second time around for the meeting, after changes to the project scope meant city planning staff had to rewrite their zoning amendments and start the bylaw process over again, right after the first bylaw had gone through second reading.

For anyone who attended the first public hearing in September, there was a clear sense of déjà vu.

Aside from one of Wilkins’ staffers, it was the same three residents who spoke up about the new restaurant and bar. They were not in favour of the new building.

Those residents were worried about noise pollution, increased traffic, and alcohol-fuelled problems in the family-focused neighbourhood.

One resident of 30 years, who lives across the street from Big Racks Barbecue, said there has been a problem with his utilidor in the winter months ever since the restaurant opened.

Another 20-year resident said that before the restaurant opened in 2016, the neighbourhood was peaceful and quiet. Rowdiness and noise late in the evening from staff housing have changed this, she said.

At the last meeting, “there was talk of concessions,” said resident Stephen Leyden, who has lived on Fred Coman St. for six years. “Instead we’ve got a bigger building.… I don’t see how making it bigger is going to make it better.”

He said his current concerns with the business are already “alcohol-fuelled,” and that a restaurant serving alcohol late in the evening will only aggravate things. He called homeownership a rarity in Iqaluit, and said that homeowners should be protected from commercial encroachment.

“Long-time residents own homes in Lower Base,” Leyden said.

To limit noise pollution, the second version of the zoning bylaw for Big Racks Barbecue requires entrances and patios for the restaurant to face the Capital Suites hotel, and away from private homes. Kitchen vents will also either face in that direction or be on the roof.

If the new restaurant plan passes scrutiny, staff housing will be moved to another location, Wilkins said. He plans to move the three buildings currently on the lots.

Leyden acknowledged that the city needs restaurants, but said he wants the city to look at developing a plan for a commercial area of the city “for shops and bars and restaurants,” instead of disrupting established residential neighbourhoods with piecemeal and one-off projects.

Council has earmarked money to finish its updated general plan this year, Mayor Madeleine Redfern said. The current plan was last updated in 2010.

“I don’t see any other place in town that has better surroundings,” Wilkins told Nunatsiaq News. “This is the area that is designated by the city so far, allowing these types of establishments to operate.”

When he opened his business in 2016, the Waters Edge restaurant was operating in the now-closed Hotel Arctic, and the Navigator Restaurant was still open for eat-in customers. The Iqaluit Legion is also located just up the street.

“I haven’t heard any more complaints or concerns from anyone else,” Wilkins said.

The restaurant owner said he has yet to apply for a liquor licence, and that he isn’t planning to leave his business open late after his kitchen is closed.

“We’re never going away from food. We’re not looking at downgrading and focusing on alcohol,” he said.

“Everybody likes your Big Racks food. Young people really like your French fries. You provide a service to our young people,” Coun. Joanasie Akumalik said.

About half his staff are Inuit, Wilkins said, in response to a question from Akumalik.

When council discussed the bylaw in council directly following the public hearing, Deputy Mayor Romeyn Stevenson made it clear that building a bar in the neighbourhood was already OK.

“It could be a drinking establishment right now,” Stevenson said. “It’s only a little bit out of sync with the current zoning … It’s a size limitation.”

All the complaints raised by residents had to do with the current establishment, he said.

No written complaints were received by council from the community.

Councillors will review second reading of the zoning bylaw at the next council meeting on May 22.


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(17) Comments:

#1. Posted by just do it on May 10, 2018

We need more businesses in our downtown core. That area is prime real estate.

A resident of the area for 6 years? In 2012 it was clear that this whole part of town was going to become a busy spot. Buyer beware.

#2. Posted by Whatever Stephen on May 10, 2018

Or… Iqaluit businesses should be protected from NIMBY’s!

#3. Posted by LOL on May 10, 2018

Y’all might want to figure out how to make and deliver correct orders on a somewhat consistent basis before considering expansion?? Just thinking out loud here. I also call BS on those Inuit employment statistics lol

#4. Posted by Charles on May 10, 2018

Ya, move the hill like the rich people.

#5. Posted by mary christmas on May 11, 2018

most of the iqlauit businesses are in what to be in the commercial and non-residential area. houses near the BR will lose their values due to smell, noise, bar scene being so close to homes and taxi traffic in all through the night to early mornings. good luck residents. believe you me, greed will prevail; for the owners never ending need for $$$ and the city hall in needs of endless taxes grabs on everything, if they could; i think they would tax you for releasing your gas to the city air if they could find a way; greed…

#6. Posted by City is a mess on May 11, 2018

We need a Mayor who will prevent this type of circus.  This would never happen in a properly run community.  There should be a clear separation of watering holes and eateries and homes, just common sense.

#7. Posted by Mayorless on May 11, 2018

Good point #1. He also had complaints about the homeless shelter which was there when he bought his house.
Yak yak yak
He sure is full of a lot of negativity and reasons why things cant be done but he probably does not show up anywhere and get anthing done. All about him.
Iqaluit needs more restaurants and businesses.
This business should be allowed to expand as long as the vents are not polluting the neighborhood.

#8. Posted by Are you kidding me on May 11, 2018

How many of the three people that are complaining about the restaurant actually own a house near it?

#9. Posted by boris pasternak on May 11, 2018

#8, have you walked near the restaurants with vent smell coming down your way? grease, hamburger and other aroma smells? yak…

#10. Posted by Are you kidding me on May 11, 2018

Sure have Boris, restaurants tend to have a sent this is because they are cooking. Although in the article the owner says he will point the vent away from the resident houses

But my point was that there are three people complaining and I doubt they actually own houses they live in. Also it was three people who stood up and spoke three. Lets do the math shall we. About 7000 people in Iqaluit, 1 bbq restaurant (good or bad that’s another discussion), 55 people near restaurant were given notice about the meeting, 15 people came to the meeting and only 3 people said they don’t like the idea. If the city is going to stop progress over three people we are never going to get anything down.

#11. Posted by Longtimeresidentmiut on May 11, 2018

Hey pal, news flash: 6 years does NOT make you a long time resident, and neither does 20 years ‘on and off.’

#12. Posted by Homeowner on May 12, 2018

Way to go iqaluit. Again pushing big business as priority. The city is a mess of broken infrastructure, poor planning and mayors seat more empty then full. This type of stuff is a huge hurdle to becoming a home owner. Who wants to spend 700k on a house and 6 months have a neighbor who is a booze toting business owner.
And the racist typical comments on here are disgusting. 6 years or 60 if someone wants to become a homeowner what differnece their length of residency? Let’s just make it a free for all. Open strip bars up in the old Starbucks location on the plateau. Since everyone in iqaluit feels business should be anywhere and be more important, why not? What is the point of bylaws and zoning if the city has no plan at all for development?

#13. Posted by No thanks on May 12, 2018

Iqaluit is a mess, there is no rhyme of reason to the zoning.
#11 your atitude is why people dont want to be homeowners and residents, that and the “go back south” mentality. Racism is racism no matter who you point it at.

#14. Posted by Screwed up city on May 13, 2018

Driving from the airport we are first greeted by prisons and then drive along half paved roads with junk yards galore.  Why not build out there and make it more presentable for all.  Why displace homeowners when you can build in zoned properties.  We certainly need a new mayor with time and vision to devote to our city.

#15. Posted by 11 & 12 come on on May 14, 2018

As an Inuk homeowner, I applaud residents who are investing in homes in Iqaluit.  It is not easy to maintain a home and this type of activity by the city just places a very bad taste.  If a stinking restaurant can be placed right next door and then a bar, what next.  We need to elect a real mayor and more responsive councillors this year.

#16. Posted by Sympathetic but... on May 15, 2018

Iqaluit is growing. Our commercial needs are growing too.

#17. Posted by We need a mayor on May 15, 2018

I noticed her worship was trying to get elected on yet another position and lost to an elder.  Didn’t take it will and went to court and lost.

Our city is falling apart and there is no sense of direction.  Come on Councillors, do your jobs and take over as it is getting worse!

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