2015-10-21

Town excludes hat junkie from Live/Work task force

by Emma Smith

A hatmaker whose crusade against Lunenburg's stance on home-based business sparked the creation of a Live/Work task force won't have a seat at the table.

Lunenburg council voted not to include Anna Shoub in its seven-person committee, which met for the first time on Monday.

"She has expressed her opinion about her particular issues often, loudly, and I don't know that she has anymore that she can add to that. So we have already heard from her in abundance," said Mayor Rachel Bailey during a phone interview on Monday morning.

The idea for the task force was brought up at a May 14 planning advisory committee meeting, where Shoub raised her concerns about costly upgrades the town's building inspector told her were needed to legally operate her Lawrence Street hat studio.

"[Shoub has] done a lot of independent inquiries on her own, the results of which I think are somewhat questionable, and her reporting of the results are definitely questionable," said Bailey. "So she's not necessarily any better qualified than anyone else to be on this committee."

Bailey added that the task force's mandate is larger than any one issue, and that council sought a "balanced perspective and a good cross-section of voices" when choosing members.

Last month, councillor John McGee noted that there seemed to be little community interest in the task force. October 19 was set as the date of the first meeting, and by then more people had come forward.

Those who had already volunteered and thought they were on the committee were asked to fill out applications.

Last Thursday, during a special council meeting, the group of about 10 applicants was narrowed down to five residents and two councillors. On Friday, a handful of people, including Shoub, received rejection letters in their in-boxes.

"I feel like there's been so much effort to shut me up," said Shoub. "So many tax dollars spent to make sure that I was silenced, and that's not OK."

"There was a common thread of people that disagreed with council, so I can't help but feel that there was exclusion for disagreeing with council, and that's alarming," she added.

Jessika Hepburn, Will Brooks, Susan Hudson, Gladys Collicutt and Jamie Myra will form the Live/Work committee. Councillors John McGee and Thom Barclay, both members of the planning advisory committee that oversees the task force, also volunteered.

Barclay was the only councillor to vote against removing all parking restrictions for home-based businesses, a move that Bailey says doesn't mean he's opposed to home-based business.

"The leap that people make from the fact that someone voted against a motion [to] that they're then anti-whatever the topic of discussion was is wrong. You can't make those assumptions or you're risking complete misinterpretation," she said.

But Shoub says including Barclay and McGee, two councillors who've been "strong voices of opposition" feels a "little bit like strong-arming."

Paula Rennie, a member of the heritage advisory committee and a home-based business owner in Lunenburg since 2003, was also not chosen to sit on the committee.

"I was stunned when Anna did not get chosen because she's done all her homework, all that research" said Rennie. "All the work that she's done is not being taken advantage of. So you have a committee that pretty much will start back at square one."

David Penney, another resident who didn't make the cut, agreed.

"Pretty much anybody I've ever talked to all feel the same way, that Anna and the group that supported her should have been welcomed with open arms, and said, 'Thank you so much for investigating this, for helping us understand it more fully,'" he said.

Penney added that it would have been better if the town made the committee open to everybody from the start. Instead, he says there's a "division that's been made between the committee itself and the general public, which is not good."

Myra, the owner of Stan's Dad and Lad, said he hopes the group stays progressive and professional.

"If it's just a committee churning its wheels ... and we don't seem to be making any progression and it becomes a fight and argument every time we meet, then I won't be on this committee for long," said Myra, who served as a town councillor for 12 years.

As a commercial business owner and a resident, he's "a strong believer in the fact that if you are using 20 per cent of your residence for business, then you pay 20 per cent commercial tax."

"Plus as a resident, quite honestly, I've chosen to live in a strictly residential community," added Myra. "I'd be awfully disappointed and frankly quite upset if businesses started popping up all around my neighbourhood."

Shoub hopes the committee isn't about arguing the pros and cons of home-based business. The Ivany Report has already proven their importance to Nova Scotia, she says.

"What just happened with the Live/Work task force to me is like a case study in attitudes," said Shoub. "We have to engage diverse voices and we have to learn to listen to each other and the listening isn't happening. It's really not happening."

Live/Work task force meetings are open to the public. Shoub said she plans to attend.

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