City council made it clear it has no appetite for cannabis retail applications that come with a side of variances.
A rezoning application for a pot store on Young Road was denied by council on June 4 before it could go to the public hearing stage.
Coun. Jason Lum asked staff if a moratorium could be placed on C9 cannabis retail applications, and for licensed producers (LPs) of cannabis as well.
“I don’t know why we moved ahead on any of these,” Lum said, at the meeting.
There’s no incentive for local governments like City of Chilliwack to continue approving retail pot stores, Coun. Lum argued, doing the work to regulate retail and licensing, without provincial clarity on the tax split with local governments.
“We are incurring costs right now as a city, but there are still so many unknowns,” he said.
Officials with Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) have said local governments are seeking 40 per cent of the tax revenue, which totals about $68 million flowing to the province over three years. UBCM has also asked its members to keep track of what they’ve spent on cannabis-related rezonings, licensing, advertising, and bylaws.
After the meeting Coun. Lum told The Progress that he has never received more threatening emails in all his years on council, since advocating a moratorium be explored for cannabis retail and LPs.
“It doesn’t surprise me but it’s misplaced,” Lum said about the pushback from people who want more cannabis stores. “Right now we are trying to negotiate the best deal for the taxpayers of Chilliwack.”
There are nine store applications still in the queue, and three of those require variances.
One has been approved so far, for Central Cannabis on Industrial Way inside the SureStay Hotel by Best Western.
Another that sought to open a cannabis store on Promontory was denied.
CAO Peter Monteith said at the meeting last week he wasn’t sure if a moratorium would even be possible at this point, given that they already rezoned one property for the first cannabis retail store under the new C9 zoning regulations.
“We did have the option not to have retail,” Monteith reminded council since local governments could choose to prohibit cannabis retail operations in its borders.
Surrey and Richmond for example are not allowing cannabis retail.
Coun. Chris Kloot had a message for future applicants hoping to open a cannabis store in Chilliwack:
“I think we made it clear when we had specific requirements for the C9 zone, and at this point I’m not comfortable to entertain any variances,” Kloot said.
The applicant had been seeking to rezone a portion of the property at Young and Chilliwack Central to the C9 cannabis retail zone from commercial-industrial zoning. A development variance application was also filed.
The location’s proximity to playgrounds and a future supportive housing facility did not meet the 300-metre buffer zone requirement, so a development variance permit (DVP) application had to be submitted, to run concurrently with the rezoning, to reduce the minimum buffer distance within the proposed C9 Zone from 300m to 279m from The Education Centre, from 300m to 239m from Nowell Park, from 300m to 282m from Greenacres Square, and from 300m to 145m from a supportive housing facility.
But that idea was not going to fly.
“I would strongly suggest to potential applicants to work within the parameters that we have created here at the city to accommodate that C9 zoning,” said Kloot, referring to the buffer zone, among other conditions.
Staff was not in support of the Young Road application, according to the report:
“As detailed within the Staff Report, Staff are not supportive of the proposed change in land use given the necessary variances to facilitate the proposal and recommend that Council deny the Bylaw and issuance of Development Variance Permit DVP01028 with respect to property located at Unit A-8810 Young Road.”
The proposed location was close to two playgrounds (Nowell Park and Greenacres Square) and one school (The Education Centre). It is also about 145m away from a future supportive housing facility (located at 45890 Trethewey Avenue).
“As these sites are gathering spaces for children and youth, including vulnerable people. Staff consider this an inappropriate location for a cannabis retail store.”