City of Charlottetown wants public opinion on community fridge

The future of a community fridge in Charlottetown is in question.

City council voted 6-0 Tuesday night to go to public consultation on a site-specific exemption for the community fridge that sits in the parking lot of the Parkdale Sherwood Lions Club, where Valley and Connolly streets intersect.

Coun. Trevor MacKinnon abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest. Councillors Terry Bernard, Norman Beck and Kevin Ramsay were not in attendance.

The process was triggered by a complaint filed with the city by a resident on Jan. 25 concerning the use of the fridge.

“I don’t know the details of the complaint, but it’s my understanding it was based on some extensive garbage, some cleanup in the area, some concerns with neighbours,” said Deputy Mayor Alanna Jankov, who also chairs the planning and heritage committee.

Ward 1 councillor and Deputy Mayor Alanna Jankov standing inside the city council chambers.Ward 1 councillor and Deputy Mayor Alanna Jankov standing inside the city council chambers.

Ward 1 councillor and Deputy Mayor Alanna Jankov standing inside the city council chambers.

The non-profit that runs the fridge was ‘operating under good faith for three years,’ says Charlottetown Deputy Mayor Alanna Jankov, who also chairs the planning and heritage committee. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

Charlottetown bylaw officers have been asked to help clean the property, Coun. Mitch Tweel said during the meeting.

“I don’t think anyone is against a community fridge,” Tweel said. “I think what they are opposed to [is what] is being drawn into the neighbourhood. Some people simply don’t respect the neighbours.”

Jankov said complaints about the fridge will be “fleshed out” during the public consultation process.

When the complaint was received, council discovered there were issues with the approval process, Jankov said. Information given at the time to the fridge’s operator, the non-profit organization 4 Love 4 Care, was wrong.

“The folks that run the community fridge started this process about three years ago, and they were given the green light by the previous planning and heritage administration. So, they were operating under good faith for three years,” Jankov said.

“In fact, they do need a site exemption in order to operate on this piece of property because it is … zoned [for] parking, so it’s not a permitted use.”

Co-founder Sandra Sunil at the community fridge, which began August 8 and is open 24/7 in Charlottetown. Co-founder Sandra Sunil at the community fridge, which began August 8 and is open 24/7 in Charlottetown.

Co-founder Sandra Sunil at the community fridge, which began August 8 and is open 24/7 in Charlottetown.

The application for the fridge’s site exemption comes from Sandra Sunil, who runs 4 Love 4 Care. (Tony Davis/CBC)

The application for the site exemption comes from 4 Love 4 Care’s Sandra Sunil on behalf of the Parkdale Sherwood Lions Club, which owns the property.

“There have been no disruptions to the operations. We are seeing more donations come through,” Sunil told CBC News in a text message.

The deputy mayor confirmed the fridge can continue to operate as the city moves through the site exemption process.

“It’s my understanding that the folks who operate the community fridge want to continue operating until there is no need,” Jankov said.

“Right now there is still a need, so they do want to forge ahead to get themselves to legal conformity.”

Waiving permit fees?

Jankov also put forward a notice of motion to limit fees for the organization, and others like it, that aim to address food insecurity.

She’s asked the planning and heritage committee to create a report for council that looks at waiving fees for “folks who are supporting and looking out for the marginalized community, the unhoused and people with food insecurity.”

If that rule isn’t changed, it could cost $3,500 for a permit for the fridge to operate, Jankov said.

“They are just a small community based organization,” she said.

There is a tentative date of June 26 for the public consultation. After that, city staff will provide a recommendation to the planning board, then it will move to council for a final decision.

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