The brown building on the right is the proposed location for Lake Cowichan’s first cannabis retailer. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Lake Cowichan council polling residents about pot stores, makes store applicant wait

Do you want them? how close to a school, daycare? hours restricted? Do you want one on N. Shore?

Lake Cowichan residents are being asked to say what they think about retail cannabis stores in town.

A questionnaire has gone into mailboxes and the replies are starting to come in.

It’s time to drag out your copy and check it out. It’s simple. You just need to

• add your street name (your actual name is not needed),

• check whether or not you think retail pot stores should operate in Lake Cowichan,

• tell the town if you like the idea of a 100 metre (300 foot) buffer zone around health care facilities, schools, and daycares, and

• say if you like the idea of restricting hours of operation, rather than following the provincial government’s idea of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The survey is only for people living withing the municipal boundaries of the Town of Lake Cowichan.

Extra copies of the survey can be picked up at the Town Office, if you didn’t get one, and the form is also available at www.lakecowichan.ca

***

This survey must be returned to the town office by Sept. 30, and councillors decided Aug. 27 that they will wait until they see the results before they consider an application from Misty Mountain Cannabis Inc. for a retail site on North Shore Road, opposite the Riverside Inn, between ORKA tube rentals and Cow Cafe (the old Woodlands store site for longtime residents).

But, even with that decision, councillors expressed a couple of concerns at last week’s council meeting.

Coun. Tim McGonigle pointed out that the site suggested is less than 100 metres from a school.

Coun. Lorna Vomacka said that the store in question would be for recreational sales, and, she noted, they wanted to be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“The liquor store doesn’t even have those hours,” she said.

Mayor Rod Peters said, “This is the first application. We may get more. There are a lot of variables on this.”

He added that he’d spoken to the mayor of Sooke and learned that council there went over the application “with a fine tooth comb” and chose to go with the idea of a “temporary use permit” with an end date to allow another look at how things are going.

Council agreed with that, and will return to the discussion after the public poll is completed and assessed.

***

Joe Fernandez gave more background, saying, “I’ve been dealing with this particular issue. All she [Kerry Marshall of Misty Mountain] needs to know is if council will consider the application. She needs to know that, and then we can move forward.”

McGonigle asked if the issue was time sensitive and, learning it was not, then said, “I think before we give any consideration, we have a straw poll out to the public.”

Fernandez said the next steps after gathering public input will be to draft a zoning bylaw.

McGonigle said, “I think the placement of this [particular application] according to the map contravenes the 100 metres from a school so I wouldn’t want to give a false indication to the applicant prior to us getting the results of the straw poll. Currently it’s about 3-1 in favour of retail cannabis.”

He wondered if council could table discussion of this application until after the straw poll.

Marshall, the senior licensing analyst with Misty Mountain Cannabis, explained in a letter to council, “The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) will initiate an applicant suitability assessment regarding this CRS application, also known as a ‘fit and proper’ assessment, which is comprised of financial integrity checks and security screenings of the applicant and persons associated with the applicant. Once the assessment is complete, you will be notified of the LCRB’s determination. You may choose to withhold your recommendation until the LCRB has made a final decision regarding the applicant’s suitability. If you choose not to make any recommendation regarding the application, please contact the LCRB at the earliest convenience.”

Cannabis retail stores don’t get licences without positive recommendation from local government, and if a local government or First Nation decides to sit on the fence, the LCRB won’t budge either, she explained.

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