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City approvals holding back brewery opening

A decades-old City of Iqaluit water and sewage by-law and stressed city services are hampering business development in the capital.

Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo
Nunavut Brewing Company Ltd. partners Stuart Kennedy, left, and Sheldon Nimchuk appeal to Iqaluit city council to move forward with water and sewage by-law and other issues so they can finally open the business they'd planned on opening in the fall of 2017.

"We're ready to open," said Nunavut Brewing Company Ltd. (NBCL) general manager Katie Barbour.

The brewing company has two approved vehicles for hauling water and sewer, and they're asking for access to city facilities.

"We're just looking for permission," said Barbour.

By-law 200 states, "No person, except those authorized by council, shall directly or indirectly engage in the provision of municipal services within the Town."

The city is working on a revision of that by-law, but that could take many more weeks. A workshop is scheduled for June 27. But the approval process, including first, second and third reading, would take the timeline into the slow summer months.

"Therefore our water management plan cannot be adopted until after that third reading of that revised by-law," said brewery partner and long-time Iqaluit businessman Stuart Kennedy at a city council meeting June 12.

The original plan was for the brewery to open in the fall of 2017.

Black Heart Cafe owner Joseph Szakacs had his own issues to contend with prior to opening his business. He said it took some time to resolve water issues related to his fledgling business, adding he and his landlord approached the city in April 2017, and while they expected any water issues to be resolved in a timely fashion – the operation wasn't even looking for a water-use amendment – it wasn't until October any real movement was seen on the file.

"By the end of September, we were still waiting for approvals – we started in April. We were still trying to figure out, can we do this? Pull the trigger, buy the equipment, and hope for the best?"

Everything did work out, but the planned January opening took until mid-March.

Szakacs said the city's planning department appeared understaffed and struggling to keep up with the demands placed on it.

Meanwhile, Kennedy and partners Sheldon Nimchuk, Harry Flaherty, Cody Dean and Ambrose Livingstone have already employed Barbour and master brewer Mike Wayne for months.

Councillors seemed more concerned about how the brewery planned on being good corporate citizens and the wastewater the brewery would create. But the brewery has worked with city staff and developed a water management plan, which includes licenced hauling and effluent quality information.

"The company does have plans to use Sylvia Grinnell water and the company will continue to develop towards that goal. However, until we develop a pumping system that can provide fresh water year-round, we need to depend on the City of Iqaluit water supply," Kennedy told city council.

Councillor Kyle Sheppard, speaking to Nunavut News, responded to rumours that Tower Arctic Ltd. received expedited treatment for approvals for its new camp at the Iqaluit site. The company won an $89-million contract from the Government of Nunavut to construct a small-craft harbour at Pond Inlet, and a deep-sea port and small-craft harbour in Iqaluit.

Sheppard admitted a revision of By-law 200 was long overdue, and indicated each of the three situations are different.

"There's separate issues at play here. The camp project you referenced can actually be hooked up to the water supply. That's actually going to be supplied by piped water. The issue there is the sewage pump-out," said Sheppard.
"The arrangements the city has made, in conjunction with that development permit, is the city will provide additional sewage pump-out over and above normal until such time as, hopefully, By-law 200 is amended for the licenced hauling of water and sewage whereby large corporation and companies, whose needs exceed the city's ability to provide water and sewage services, will be able to provide their own."

Sheppard said it's hard for the city to keep up with the existing trucked supply.

"What the city is considering (with the by-law revision) is that licenced hauling, whereby those companies can use their own water and sewer trucks," said Sheppard, adding the city has faced the issue for several years.

The city agreed to fill the gap for Tower Arctic, until the amendment is in effect.

As for the brewery, Sheppard says there are still issues to be worked out with the finalized permit.

"Regarding wastewater, as well. There's some unique wastewater. It's more complicated, a bit more complicated than the situation that was faced by the camp," he said.

"I think it's just a matter of getting comfort that the way the wastewater is treated is going to be acceptable for the city system, especially with our new wastewater treatment plant coming on line in the next year and a half or so."

As for staffing at the planning department, Sheppard says there have been challenges and the city has been using contract workers to fill gaps.

"Hopefully, we'll have a fully-staffed permanent complement sometime soon. Planners are hard to come by, and more so here," he said.

"And, from my personal opinion, the amendments to By-law 200 need to happen as soon as possible. Licenced hauling is going to help spur economic development, help our business community grow. This isn't about providing a new marketplace for privatized water. This is about companies who will, for the most part, be doing it themselves."

If a company can provide for itself, that makes sense, said Sheppard.