Coun. Tim McGonigle says he thinks keeping pot/vaping shops 600 metres from schools is not practical for Lake Cowichan but wants to hear why trustees think it’s a good plan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

600-metre pot-free zone around schools could be a bit of a reach for Lake Cowichan

L.C. council will talk with school board but will make own decisions about local applications

The board of education for the Cowichan Valley School District has asked to be part of Lake Cowichan town council’s discussions on pot/vaping shop applications.

In addition, the trustees said in a letter to Mayor Rod Peters that they consider such retailers should be 600 metres or more away from schools.

Board Chair Candace Spilsbury, in her letter, said, “It is our understanding that bylaws, policies, and/or procedures are currently being developed regarding the locations and approval processes of applications for business licences. The board would strongly emphasize the need to locate cannabis/vaping stores distant from schools; it is our suggestion that 600 metres or more is appropriate, as required by other, similar jurisdictions. The board would also like to respond to any request to comment on any application that is being considered for approval.”

After presenting the letter at the town council meeting April 23, Peters said, “We have a meeting coming up with the school board. I think we should take this letter and take it to that meeting.”

However, Coun. Tim McGonigle wasn’t ready to let the subject go that quickly.

“Further on in the second paragraph, it talks about siting, and 600 metres from schools,” he said, opining that this seemed a bit exaggerated. “When you look at other communities, that is 400-500 metres more than other jurisdictions have for their bylaws. We have not incorporated distances within ours. We have just disallowed [such retailers] in any zone so the applicant would come forward [to council] and then we would surmise what the proper wording within that bylaw would be,” he said.

McGonigle noted that 600 metres “is over half a kilometre. There would be nowhere within the Town of Lake Cowichan where a cannabis store could be situated” if, for instance a circle of that size were drawn around a school.

“I’m a little leery of the 600 metres. I agree that ‘close proximity’ needs appropriate language. Whether we agree that 600 metres is close proximity or not is another thing. We can most certainly bring this subject forward and listen to the rationale of why the board of education trustees feel that this is the way. In other communities it may work.

“Otherwise, once an application [from a prospective retailer] comes forward, it will be up to this table to determine what the correct decision should be,” the veteran councillor said.

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