Quesnel council has recommended another retail cannabis store application to the provincial government, bringing the total number of retail business licences in process up to five in the city.
At its July 16 meeting, council voted to recommend that an application for a retail cannabis store at 213 St. Laurent Ave. go ahead in the provincial government’s process.
Hive Cannabis Inc. has applied to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) to obtain a non-medical cannabis retail store license for 213 St. Laurent Ave. This is an existing commercial unit, that is currently home to the Reformation House, and the proposed site is zoned Central Business District Commercial, which permits cannabis retail sales as a principal use.
As part of the public consultation process, the City mailed out 136 notices of the application on June 27 to tenants and property owners within 100 metres of the property, and 24 written submissions were received as of July 3, when the staff report for this application was written.
“This was probably the more contentious and the most responses we’ve gotten back on any of our retail cannabis stores at this point,” Tanya Turner, the City’s director of development services, told council.
Staff received 19 submissions from downtown businesses stating they do not foresee any reason as to why City council would not approve Hive Cannabis’s retail cannabis licence application.
Five written submissions were received in opposition — four from businesses and one from a residential property owner — noting the following reasons why council should deny the request: a lack of parking for nearby businesses, an increase in excessive panhandling near the proposed site, an increase in smoking in public streets, an increase in vandalism near the proposed store, close proximity to another retail cannabis store (308 McLean St.), increased workload on Bylaw and RCMP resources, uncertainty about the business and how it operates, concern about the security measures proposed, increased mental health issues (particularly youth), and proximity to the residences that are in the nearby Johnson Meier Insurance building.
Turner told council they did receive a late submission, which was a petition, but it has not been included in the public feedback.
“It is late as per the guidelines we put forth on how we were going to accept consultation on this application, so we don’t feel it’s fair at this point to bring it in, nor have we had time to review the submission to verify its authenticity,” she said.
The City of Quesnel council recommends the issuance of a licence to Hive Cannabis Inc. at 213 St. Laurent Ave. because adequate efforts were undertaken to gather the views of the public for the proposal; the location is suitable and properly zoned for the use intended and meets the required setbacks from schools, playgrounds, parks and residential zones; and council, on balance of the submissions received, feels the application is suitable to proceed.
Coun. Martin Runge expressed concern that with this recommendation, council has now approved five retail cannabis stores, and none of them have opened their doors yet, so they have no data on which to make informed decisions about the potential costs or benefits to the community, and the risks are unknown.
“I believe our application process is fair, but having the timelines and considering some of the unknowns, I feel it might be time for council to look at some ways of slowing or temporarily pausing our application process,” he said. “It doesn’t mean shut it down, but slow it down, and maybe not now but maybe for the next one with a simple amendment that would limit the number of active, pre-opening applications that we allow. So maybe we have it at five, and we don’t allow more until at least one of those goes through; [which] keeps the open market going.”
Coun. Scott Elliott pointed out that this application “meets all the test” in relation to the City’s zoning bylaw, and the panhandling and smoking concerns are being addressed in the City’s bylaws.
Coun. Mitch Vik sees no reason why council should backtrack on its process for approving cannabis retail locations.
“I do have a concern that we now have a backlog of five, but that’s not the municipality’s problem — the LCRB has a due process, and they’re following it,” he said. “I think in terms of the existing bylaws we have or bylaws that are pending, I think there are a lot of protections to make sure that smoking, panhandling … there’s a lot of protections there that will mitigate some of the concerns.”
Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg says she questions whether five stores are going to work in Quesnel, but that is up to the businesses.
“It will be interesting because I know I haven’t heard any kind of feedback from communities whether they’ve got too few or too many or how they’re working within their communities,” she said. “We don’t have any of that data yet. It behooves the businesses to make a go of it.”
After council voted to recommend to the LCRB that a non-medical cannabis retail store license be issued to Hive Cannabis Inc., Runge made a motion that council revisit the zoning bylaw in relation to retail cannabis stores to make sure they are leaving enough time for submissions in the public consultation process and to look at possibly limiting the number of open applications in process.
“Sometimes you might have a bylaw that is not meeting our intended goals in the future, so it’s something to possibly consider going forward,” said Runge.