Costa Canna’s application for a retail outlet at Cowichan Commons gets the cold shoulder from Cowichan school trustees. (file photo)

Cowichan trustees persist in calling for 600-metre pot-free zone around schools

School board is investigating the idea of making it a district policy

Cowichan Valley school trustees like the idea of setting up a policy calling for a 600-metre pot-free zone around schools.

At least, they want to keep cannabis retailers at that much of a distance. At the urging of Trustee Rob Hutchins, the board of education voted unanimously May 7 that the board request staff to develop a policy regarding the distance that such facilities be from schools.

The board had been discussing a letter from the Municipality of North Cowichan, asking the trustees to comment on an application from Costa Canna, saying the company was applying to the B.C. government for a retail cannabis licence for #B 101 2951 Green Rd. at the Cowichan Commons mall.

School district secretary-treasurer Jason Sandquist said, “This is the third application to come before the board in the last two months. In this particular case, this location is 350 metres from Drinkwater Elementary School. It’s actually right on the property line of Cowichan Commons, beside the Island Savings Insurance so it’s right at the trail head. That might be significant for the board in providing feedback.”

Trustee Elizabeth Croft asked about the North Cowichan bylaw, if it was in line with the school board’s wish to see such businesses at least 600 metres from a school

Sandquist explained that North Cowichan will consult with trustees if the application indicates the business would be 600 metres or less from a school.

Croft then said, “I wouldn’t support this. It doesn’t fall within the realm of the bylaw. Presumably, we will respond that we would like them to know that we’re not in favour of the rezoning.”

Trustee Johanne Kemmler asked, “Would that mean there will be two in that mall?”

Sandquist said, “There are two proposals that the board have commented on for the mall.”

Trustee Barb DeGroot wanted it clearer. “My understanding was that they had to consult with us if it was within 600 metres [but] could approve it if it was [less than that].”

Board chair Candace Spilsbury said, “Yes, even with our comment, they can approve it.”

Hutchins asked, “Did we adopt a policy or guidelines regarding recommended distance from our school facilities?”

Spilsbury then said the board did not have such a policy yet “but each one of the local governments have developed a bylaw, as I understand it, and within them they have set the number of metres from schools and child care centres.”

Sandquist reminded trustees that they had written to local governments asking for a 600-metre buffer zone between retailers and schools.

Trustees then voted unanimously to tell North Cowichan what they thought of the application.

In a copy of a letter sent to the school board, Costa Canna said the company was “currently in the final stages of building out our first location in the Duncan Mall Plaza and have signed an OTL with Cushman and Wakefield who are property managers in the Cowichan Commons for our second site.”

Further on in the letter, the company explained that, “Cowichan Commons has been selected as the second site after careful deliberation by our group for many reasons:

• North end has the biggest potential for future development and will have the hospital in the near future

• Cowichan Commons is home to the largest anchor tenant in Walmart [that] creates unprecedented traffic and customers in that area

• Cowichan Commons logistically fits our business model as we are set to be a higher boutique chain and the landscape allows for that.”

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