A proposed cannabis retail store near downtown is one step closer to reality after city councillors decided to go against a staff recommendation.
Nanaimo city council passed first and second reading of a rezoning application for a proposed cannabis retail store at 111 Terminal Ave. on Monday night.
CSC Cannabis Stores, a B.C.-based company, is looking to open a 185 square-metre cannabis retail store on the property, which is located near Mid-Island Auto Collision. City staff had recommended councillors deny the rezoning application, citing proximity to an existing school and another proposed cannabis retail store.
According to a staff report, the store would be located roughly 180 metres from Pauline Haarer Elementary. The proposed cannabis retail store would not be visible from school property, but because there are sidewalks to the property and no major dividers such as a highway, the location is considered walkable, the report notes. City guidelines state that cannabis retail stores be at least 200 metres away from schools and daycares.
A rezoning application has been submitted to the city for a proposed cannabis retail store across the street at 140 Terminal Ave., which is 88 metres away from CSC’s proposal. The staff report notes that the rezoning application for 140 Terminal was received before CSC’s application.
In a letter to the city, CSC explains that it is currently in the process of obtaining cannabis retail licences in Vancouver and Calgary and intends to expand to Ontario by 2021. It states that its products or promotional material will not reach the school or children “in any way possible.” It also states that it will be providing good-paying jobs as well as a safe and secure environment for employees and customers.
During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Ben Geselbracht said he went to Pauline Haarer as a child and never remembers going down the hill towards where the proposed cannabis shop would be located.
“I explored far afield and I never went down the hill even close to that area,” he said. “It’s not in any traffic way for youth accessing residential neighbourhoods. In terms of being within the 200-metre exclusion zone, it’s not a concern for me whatsoever.”
Coun. Tyler Brown said he understands that staff are making a recommendation based on existing policy. He said sometimes policy misses the context of certain situations, adding that he’s fine with the proposed location.
“I have no concern,” Brown said. “At the end of the day we are taking about cannabis retail, not cannabis consumption. So, people coming and going, that is a normal part of retail, just like it is with the liquor store. There is no consumption typically on site, so I’m comfortable supporting this rezoning application even though it does not satisfy the policy framework.”
Coun. Zeni Maartman originally had concerns about the location being close to a school, but said after hearing other councillors speak, she no longer had concerns. She said she didn’t have concerns about the CSC being located close to another proposed cannabis store because the market will determine which ones survive and which ones fail.
“The market is going to decide who is going to purchase from each place,” she said.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said she couldn’t support the application due to its proximity to Pauline Haarer Elementary, Maffeo Sutton Park and another proposed cannabis store, while Coun. Ian Thorpe said he couldn’t support the rezoning application, explaining that there are guidelines for a reason and that the city should follow them.
Councillors Armstrong, Turley and Thorpe opposed the rezoning.
Prior to a public hearing, CSC’s application will be reviewed by the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. The branch, which reviews all cannabis retail licence applications, requires applicants receive support from local government as part of their review.
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