A re-zoning application for a cannabis retail store at 4061 Norwell Dr. was denied by Nanaimo city council on Monday. (CITY OF NANAIMO image)

Editorial: Council inconsistent on pot shop criteria

Flexibility on guidelines an indication that cannabis retail store re-zoning process has gaps

Nanaimo’s policies around cannabis retail have gotten a little hazy.

Cannabis retail stores are coming to the city sooner or later, with 15 re-zoning applications having come before council and many of them now awaiting provincial licensing and final approval.

The City of Nanaimo-led cannabis task force, in the lead-up to federal legalization, made recommendations for cannabis retail stone re-zoning criteria that offered some controls. Pot shops have to be 200 metres from schools, daycares and community centres, for example.

City staff told the News Bulletin earlier this year that with the city’s buffering requirements on how close stores can be to other pot shops, schools and daycare centres means that at some point the city will essentially run out of room.

But last month, city council went against its criteria, approving first and second readings of a cannabis retail store on Terminal Avenue, less than 200 metres from a school and across the street from another proposed pot shop. A councillor suggested the market would decide how each businesses would fare in close proximity to the other. Then, at a meeting this week, another pot shop application on Norwell Drive came forward, also neighbouring another pending cannabis store and also a community centre, but this time council denied it. In both instances, staff recommended against the applications. In each case, the questions asked of the applicant by councillors were different, and so were the evening’s discussion points.

Not every pot shop application that comes to the council table will have equal merits, and it’s part of the job of city council to make decisions about appropriate property uses. We don’t disagree with their judgement on either of these applications. But it does raise questions of fairness when two applications weeks apart, both in urban nodes, can be seen to have been considered through different lenses.

The City of Nanaimo knows more about the cannabis retail landscape now than it did when the criteria were adopted. Those criteria may need a second look as the pot shop business in this city continues to grow.

RELATED: Nanaimo council goes against its guidelines to advance pot shop application

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