Chilliwack city council was divided on Tuesday over whether to reconsider a proposed cannabis retail store in the Promontory neighbourhood.
But since the reconsideration application required a two-thirds majority, and the vote was a three-three tie, the application by Rick Toor for the shop in Promontory Hillside Plaza, which his family owns, was defeated.
The issue of exactly where the newly legal cannabis shops will be located in Chilliwack since legalization came into effect in Canada is proving to be a contentious one. City council approved the first shop in the city in a portion of the SureStay Hotel by Best Western on Industrial Way near Lickman Road in April.
But at the May 7 meeting, in a highly unusual move, council unanimously voted to defeat the proposal to rezone the Promontory property from local commercial (C2) to cannabis retail (C9) deeming it too close to a busy street corner and a convenience store attended by neighbourhood kids.
Toor’s application was the second of more than 10 that’s in the queue at city hall.
Defeating a rezoning application before a public hearing is highly unusual. Normal process is that city council gives an application first and second reading and calls a public hearing for the next meeting. After that public hearing, there is usually debate followed by council voting for or against the application after hearing neighbourhood comments.
Toor and his partners then applied for a reconsideration request, which was heard at the May 21 meeting. The commercial realtor appeared alongside his brother Mick Toor and Sanj Mand, who was to be the manager of the store. The family owns the plaza itself and the liquor store in the plaza.
In a detailed power point presentation, Mand started by outlining the public consultation they undertook in the form of a meeting at the elementary school attended by 11 people, a supportive petition, and results of door-knocking where they received 82.3 per cent support, he said.
Mand outlined in detail the security measures to be in place at the store, which include frosted windows, a security vestibule upon entry at which point identification would need to be produced.
“The public deserve to have their voice heard,” Mand said of their desire for the application to go to public hearing.
Mick Toor then outlined the family’s business history in Chilliwack and beyond, which involved running 15 video stores and in 2011 purchasing Duke’s Pub, which expanded to five locations, including Promontory. In all of those businesses, Toor said they have received zero infractions.
Rick Toor then explained how picking the right operators for cannabis stores is important. He said he had the same concerns that council does but he did his research on how to do it right.
“You can put one kid or 100 kids in our parking lot and we are going to have zero infractions,” he said. “We are the right operators.”
In the end, Mayor Ken Popove and Couns. Chris Kloot and Jeff Shields voted for reconsideration, which would mean the rezoning would go to a public hearing.
“I too struggle with this but I want to be able to say that we’ve had a public forum,” Kloot said.
Couns. Bud Mercer, Harv Westeringh and Jason Lum, however, voted against reconsideration, if for different reasons.
Shields and Mercer essentially continue to be opposed to the location.
“In my heart, in honesty, I do not believe it’s the right location for a cannabis dispensary,” Mercer said. “It has nothing to do with you personally. Your track record speaks for itself.”
Coun. Lum has expressed a big-picture concern that the provincial government has not set out what percentage of tax revenue will flow to municipalities, and he has no idea if all these dispensaries will have an impact on city hall’s budget.
“We are sort of flying blind here,” Lum said, adding that he supported the first cannabis store and now he would like to study that for a year before others are approved.
“I want to see data on the first one.”
The reconsideration motion required two thirds of council present to approve it, so its defeat with a three-three tie means the bylaw is considered rejected and abandoned.
Toor could bring the application back in six months.
– with files from Jennifer Feinberg