City of Chilliwack is anticipating strong demand from potential cannabis retailers wanting to set up storefronts ahead of the legalization date of October 17.
Council approved the new C9 zone for cannabis retail, which will become part of the zoning bylaw in Chilliwack, on the heels of the public hearing on Sept. 4, and community consultations.
Council said its goal was to “mitigate exposure to children and youth,” and avoid heavy concentration of cannabis stores in one commercial area.
Several speakers showed up at city hall to ask why the 300-metre distance from schools and other public spaces was so large, and why liquor stores didn’t require these minimum distances.
One person asked if the buffer wasn’t “excessive.”
Mayor Sharon Gaetz said that staff tried to strike a balance in drafting the bylaw. One of the reasons for a large buffer zone is that customers exiting a cannabis store will often “light up” regardless, and that children would be “physically affected” by inhaling cannabis smoke.
“We will monitor it for a year and see what happens in our community,” Gaetz said.
Asking about where the cannabis retail will be permitted, one speaker was told they could come to the planning department for details.
Anticipating heavy demand, applications will be processed by city staff as they arrive in the queue.
The new C9 zone will have a 300m minimum distance from schools, community centres, sports fields, playgrounds, as well as supportive housing facilities or those serving vulnerable youth.
Staff researched other B.C. communities’ approaches to minimum distances, and found that cities like Vancouver, and Squamish opted for the same 300m buffer from public spaces, as did Denver, Colorado and Spokane, Washington. Seattle went with 150-300m and Boulder, CO, 150m.
Retail operators will apply to the Liquor Control and Cannabis Regulation Branch for a retail licence, after applications filled out and fees paid, with 300m buffer area restrictions achieved.
If there are multiple applications with the same 300-m buffer area, they’ll be processed on a first come first served basis.
Additional applications to be on hold, pending the outcome of those in the queue.
According to the staff report:
“Following successful rezoning of property to permit cannabis retail use, an owner/operator will need to apply for a business license and provide the following as part of their application:
• installation and maintenance of an air filtration system to reduce odour impacts
• submission of the following as part of the business license application:
• security plan
• police checks
• proof of security alarm contract
• proof of ownership/lease agreement
• security measures:
• video surveillance
• fire alarm system
• no valuables on site
• minimum of two employees on duty
• windows must not be blocked
A licensing fee of $5,000 will be administered.