Applications for two retail marijuana operations in the City of Duncan are moving forward.
Council gave the green light to issue temporary-use permits to allow The Original Farm to set up shop at 130 Trans Canada Hwy. and for Buds and Leaves to open at 521 Canada Ave. at its meeting on July 15.
But the shops still have to meet a number of criteria set out by the city before development and business permits are issued, including that they provide acceptable site, landscape, parking, business, and security plans to the city.
The businesses must also receive operation permits from the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, which is responsible for conducting security backgrounds on applicants for pot shops among other issues, before they are allowed to open.
The applications are part of a pilot project that the city announced earlier this year in which up to three applicants for pot shops will be considered with whom the city will enter into further discussions to determine if they will receive temporary-use permits to operate in Duncan.
The city received a total of 11 applications from all across Canada to be part of the pilot program.
Other jurisdictions in the Cowichan Valley, including the Municipality of North Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District, are also in the process of considering a number of applications to open retail marijuana stores in the area.
Since recreational pot was legalized in October, there have yet to be any retail pot shops established in the Valley.
In preparation for the pilot project, the City of Duncan adopted some guiding principles to be considered in determining the locations in which it would consider issuing permits authorizing the retail sale of marijuana.
They include that the sale of marijuana is preferred to not be located within 400 metres of another marijuana retail store, 300 metres of any school, 300 metres of any group daycare, 150 metres of any city park, and 50 metres of any land zoned low density residential zone.
The site at 521 Canada Ave. is within 300 metres of Cowichan Secondary School, but only narrowly, so staff recommended the application be accepted.
The site at 130 Trans Canada Hwy. is also within 400 metres of another proposed pot shop location, Costa Canna in Duncan Mall, but staff reasoned that the TCH provides a sufficient buffer.
“Due to the small size of Duncan, it’s very challenging to find locations that fit the criteria around distances in our guiding principles for retail marijuana stores,” said Danica Rice, the city’s manager of planning.
Rice said the reason why the third application in the pilot program was not before council on Monday was that the applicant is still searching for a location that would fit the distance criteria.
The Municipality of North Cowichan is considering ending its distance criteria for its pot shop applications for the same reasons.
There was no opposition or public comments regarding the Buds and Leaves application, and council agreed unanimously to issue it a TUP.
But several speakers went to the podium to speak to the application from The Original Farm.
Jack Peake, the former mayor of Lake Cowichan who now lives close to the location, said the opening of a retail pot shop close by is the last thing he wants to see.
“Some seem to think it will be safer to open another addiction opportunity in the area but it will just add more problems,” he said.
“McAdam Park is already a site where people like to set up tents and this won’t help.”
But Amber Altman, who works next door, said the storefront has been empty for a long time and the site has a history of drug use and overdoses.
“Anything that will bring people to the area will help so I think this is a fantastic opportunity,” she said.
Allen Spillette, one of the owners of The Original Farm which has two other locations in Victoria, said he understands the challenges involved with opening a store at that location.
He said the company is planning to spend up to $1 million on the site as part of its development plans.
“We’re hearing what’s being said here loud and clear and I know we can do this well,” he said.
“We want to be positive members of the community and we’re excited to be coming to Duncan.”
The council vote was unanimous to give The Original Farm a TUP.
Mayor Michelle Staples thanked staff for all their work in preparing the city to accept retail marijuana outlet applications for the first time.
“It was a very comprehensive process and a lot went into it,” she said.