An application to open a government-operated retail cannabis store in Cowichan Commons has been put on hold.
The Municipality of North Cowichan was considering giving the first reading to a bylaw amendment at its meeting on April 3 that would see a 2,000 sq. ft. pot shop, owned and operated by the province’s Liquor Distribution Branch, set up in the SmartCentres retail complex at 2980 Drinkwater Rd.
But Costa Canna, a partnership headed by Cowichan Tribes, which is expected to officially open Cowichan Valley’s first retail cannabis shop on April 15 in the Duncan Mall, also has an application to open a retail marijuana store in Cowichan Commons, close to where Walmart is located.
According to criteria established by council January, pot shops must be a minimum of at least 300 metres from each other.
Rob Conway, North Cowichan’s director of planning, told council that the provincial licence referral has yet to be submitted for the application from Costa Canna, so the LDB’s application is further along in the process.
But CAO Ted Swabey said, despite the criteria, council still has the authority to make any decision it wants in regards to locations as applications for retail marijuana stores are reviewed.
“Council could consider the LDB’s application alone as first-past-the-gate, or it could wait for the application from Costa Canna to be completed so council could consider both at the same time,” he said.
Coun. Kate Marsh said she would prefer to review both applications before any final decisions are made.
“Maybe, after reviewing both at the same time, it’s possible we could allow two stores in the same complex,” she said.
Council decided to wait for Costa Canna’s application to be complete before consideration of the LDB’s application.
Kamloops has been home to the first and currently the only government-operated retail marijuana shop in B.C. since recreational pot became legal in Canada in October, although several applications are in the process in a number of jurisdictions across the province.
A letter to North Cowichan from the LDB states that while government-operated retail marijuana shops don’t require a licence from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to operate, the LDB is committed to following all municipal zoning processes and meeting all bylaw requirements.
The letter goes on to say that the location in Cowichan Commons was selected as a proposed site for the shop for a number of reasons, including that it would be located in a large retail complex and, therefore, would be consistent with the nature of the immediate area, it’s easily accessible to customers and it’s not expected to adversely impact traffic in the surrounding area.
A staff report, which recommended approval for the first reading for the LDB’s application be given, by North Cowichan’s development planner Caroline von Schilling states that the proposal for the store does not meet the criteria for pot stores in the municipality that have been established by council.
She said the proposed site is located within 600 metres of a school, a neighbourhood park and, with the BC Forest Discovery Centre nearby it’s an area frequented by children and youth, which is within council’s exclusion zones for the shops.
“Yet, proximity of the proposed location to Drinkwater Elementary School and Fairview Neighbourhood Park is somewhat mitigated by the walking distance to the proposed location, which is greater than 400 metres,” von Schilling said.
“Proximity to the BC Forest Discovery Centre is somewhat mitigated by the location of the Trans Canada Highway, which provides some physical separation. Therefore, community impact is moderately low given the proposal’s location is largely separated from children, youth and public-oriented properties.”
The application for the LCD-operated pot shop in the Cowichan Commons is the only rezoning application North Cowichan currently has for a government-run marijuana store and Natasha Horsman, a spokeswoman for the municipality, said North Cowichan is not aware of other current or pending proposals from the LDB.