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Kamsack zoning decision may determine if vet clinic stays or goes

A Kamsack couple who lives next to a veterinarian clinic is speaking out. At the same time, Kamsack’s town council has taken the first step in changing the town's zoning bylaw to allow vet clinics in residential zones.
Motley is a kitten that was taken from the streets of Kamsack by the local vet clinic.

KAMSACK — A Kamsack couple who lives next to a veterinarian clinic is speaking out. At the same time, Kamsack’s town council took the first step in changing the town's zoning bylaw to allow veterinarian clinics in residential zones.

The Kamsack Veterinarian Clinic moved beside Ferris and Linda Scobie on Third Street in December 2023, after its previous location in the Crowstand Centre was closed permanently. As part of the process of buying the building, Dr. Ellen Amundsen-Case obtained written approval from the Town of Kamsack to operate in the location, which was accepted by the lawyers and the bank.

The Scobies made appeal to the provincial Development Appeals Board against the town. The town lost, as the setback between the clinic and the neighbour was insufficient. The board said that either the clinic had to move by Dec. 20 or the town had to change its zoning bylaw to allow veterinarian clinics in residential zones.

‘We don't want it 10 feet from our window’: neighbour

Linda Scobie told the Kamsack Times their chief complaint is the noise from the clinic and that the blame for the issue lies with town council’s previous decisions.

“The whole thing is disheartening since we’re made out to be the bad guys. We are on the wrong end of the stick getting blamed. We are dog owners, not dog haters. We don’t necessarily want the clinic to leave town, but we don't want it 10 feet from our window,” she said.

“We don’t have anything necessarily against the clinic but we are the ones that have to deal with it. We can hear it through our windows. We want the town to take care of this, and we just don't think the town went the right way about doing it.

“The stress of the last seven months made us want to leave. We are at our camper and don’t even want to be home.”

In a summary of the conflict written by the Scobies, the couple said they raised concerns at council meetings on Nov. 14 and Nov. 27, 2023.

“The council’s response was they had no choice, the zoning bylaw allows it,” they wrote. “It is obvious that again they did not do any research, or even read the zoning bylaw, and certainly did not speak to provincial planning consultants. They allowed the vet to proceed.”

The Development Appeals Board then overturned the town’s decision.

Scobie said that they have gone to three town council meetings to complain about the noise, as well as spoke to the town administrator privately about the issue. The town told the Kamsack Times that no official complaints have been filed. Amundsen-Case said the clinic minimizes noise by sending noisy animals home or to the basement.

‘I've made Kamsack my priority’: vet

At their May 27 meeting, Kamsack town council had to determine if they wanted to change the zoning bylaw to allow veterinarian clinics in residential zones.

Before making the decision, they met with three 15-minute delegations.

The first was Amundsen-Case. She told council that she had 3,513 active clients and 4,513 active patients, with herds being counted as a single patient. They come from a large radius around Kamsack. She said people who come to Kamsack for veterinary services spend money on gasoline, at the restaurants and in local stores.

The veterinarian added that access to veterinary services adds to the list of reasons to choose to settle in Kamsack.

Amundsen-Case said a veterinarian clinic must meet all of the standards of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association. As she was unable to find a commercial space, she talked to the town about converting an existing house.

“I maintain a residence in Kamsack and I have made Kamsack my priority,” she said. “I am currently working between five and seven days a week in Kamsack. I have allowed my practice in Roblin to decline to essentially nothing because I have put all of my time and resources into Kamsack. My clinic in Roblin has no surgery facilities and no staff. It is not a viable alternative.”

The veterinarian said she’s invested in a clinic facility in the home in good faith.

“I respectfully request that Kamsack town council honour the assurances that were given to me when I opened the new location. I am asking you to pass the necessary bylaw to allow a veterinary clinic to operate in a residential zone.”

Other neighbour supports clinic

A landlord of two other homes beside the clinic gave support to the vet staying at the location.

“I own the home next door to the vet clinic at 237 Third Street in Kamsack and one of the homes behind it,” wrote Heather Janzen of Red Letter Ventures, as read to council by Amundsen-Case.

“I received a letter in the mail last week concerning the clinic and was shocked to find out that any of the neighbours were opposed to it being there. They are quiet and clean and very good neighbours. They serve this community and they would leave a huge void in our animal care if they were asked to relocate.

“Would they stay in Kamsack if forced to leave the nicely renovated office? I stand and support their efforts to keep their location and I ask you to let them stay.”

Vet clinic essential service: RM

After Amundsen-Case’s delegation, Amanda Burback commenced her delegation representing the RM of Cote, with a letter of support from the RM. The letter mentioned that “the Kamsack Veterinarian Clinic is an essential service being told to leave by a few residents, and possibly the council. Instead of telling them to leave we should be counting our blessings to have them.”

Burback, after presenting the letter had some words of her own, “Dr. Ellen is a huge benefit for this area, putting her out of her place would be a huge injustice.”

We need spay and neuter program: Cote

The next delegation included two individuals representing Cote First Nation. The first representative said, “There are some cats at Cote that roam around and Dr. Ellen has been there to help and pick up some of these stray animals. She’d be a great loss to Cote First Nation, Keeseekoose and Key.”

The second representative said, “Before her (Dr. Ellen) our First Nation was culling the dogs, since our partnership with the clinic we have a spay and neuter program, we are starting to get our animals chipped and to use euthanasia when needed, which is bad but we have to so kids don’t get bit. I understand there’s a conflict, but we need the service. We need to be responsible for these animals, they have a heart and brain and they can love you.”

Amundsen-Case said the clinic has performed a total of 147 spay and neuter surgeries so far in 2024, approximately eight spays and neuters per week

Petitions considered

After these delegations, the council presented the petitions, of which there were three. The council stated that due to the bylaws, petitions regarding residential zone changes are not binding to the council, so the petitions mostly stand as information to be shared. The first petition shown, which opposed the bylaw change, had zero correctly completed signatures (which can mean the signature had a missing date, among other things) and 11 partially completed signatures. The second petition shown was in support of the bylaw change, with ratepayer signatures from the town of Kamsack, it had 102 confirmed signatures, and 47 rejected/non-confirmed rate payer signatures. The third petition in support of the bylaw change, with non-rate payer signatures, had 358 signatures, with no further confirmation, just a signature count.

After the presentation of the petitions, the number of letters sent to the council regarding the bylaw change were presented, but the letters themselves were not gone through during the meeting. There were six letters against the bylaw change and 29 in support of the bylaw change.

Council votes

After the presentation of the letters, the first reading of the bylaw change was started by council member Shelley Fillipchuk, and at her request was recorded.

Councillor Bryce Erhardt said, “It has not been an easy decision, and I’ve been on both sides of it, but I believe it’s the right thing to do now.”

Councillor Darren Kitsch agreed with Erhardt, saying that he has also been on both sides with the bylaw change.

Councillor Shelley Fillipchuk mentioned, “I have driven multiple times past the clinic, and have not heard any noise.”

Councillor Claire Bishop said, “I believe we have to stick up for what we said.”

After that, all council members ruled in favour of the bylaw change for its first reading.

Public hearing to be held

A hearing will be held on June 24 to allow the public to speak before council makes a final decision.

“We encourage residents of Kamsack who may be frustrated with the decision-making process this council uses to attend the meeting as it is very likely that council will try to mitigate one error by making another and again the community as a whole will lose,” the Scobies wrote.

The Scobies said they are concerned that by changing the zoning bylaw to allow veterinarian clinics in residential zones, that council will set a precedent that will make it harder to deny similar commercial ventures that could disrupt their neighbours in the future.

“The reality is once a single discretionary use is approved, it becomes very difficult to refuse another one in the future as it may be considered discriminatory,” they said. “This council has less than five months left in their term and is making an ill-informed decision that will tie the hands of all future councils for years down the road.”

At the meeting, the couple said they are hoping for council to provide a rationale for considering a zoning bylaw amendment that considers land use characteristics and impacts.

Amundsen-Case told the Kamsack Times in previous interviews that if the zoning change doesn’t happen, that she would be forced to close the clinic. The Scobies said that council’s focus shouldn’t be on that, but on future land use implications.

“The vet and her clinic are obviously held in high regard in the community and it would be a huge loss if she chooses to close her clinic, but to do so is a business decision on her part, not a zoning decision on council’s part.”