Coun. Rosalie Sawrie agreed with the Mayor that the playing field was not level for the Costa Canna application. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

VIDEO: Province’s application for Cowichan Commons cannabis shop inches forward

Mayor and council balk at adopting zoning bylaw changes; will wait until next meeting to finish discussion

North Cowichan councillors are leaning towards approval of the B.C. government cannabis shop application at Cowichan Commons, but it’s not a done deal. Yet.

They went as far as giving the zoning bylaw third reading but balked at adopting it, deciding to wait for the next meeting, so they can think a little further on the issue.

Mayor Al Siebring encapsulated the situation for his colleagues by pointing out that he’d talked with Chief William Seymour of Cowichan Tribes, which is putting forward its own application for a Costa Canna cannabis outlet at the same mall.

He said that Seymour had been quite disappointed that the two applications were going ahead, and said that Costa Canna would be pulling out because it was very difficult to compete with the province.

The mall contains two parcels of land, not just one, and that allows for two applications, even though “it was not the intent of the policy” to have two pot shops in the same mall.

Siebring then asked his colleagues to consider the “potential for bad relations” with First Nations, adding, “I’m not ducking this” but didn’t want to “create unnecessary barriers in relations” with First Nations groups trying to increase their economic footprint for the benefit of their people.

He suggested turning down the application because the province “doesn’t need our approval for this”, a state of affairs he viewed with “a certain irony”.

Eventually, it was Coun. Kate Marsh who led the charge on the other side, but it was clear she was having trouble with it.

“I agree that First Nations have had a lot of hardship,” she said, but then added, “our decision is based on land use. It is two parcels. I wanted Costa Canna to have a chance. If we allow both, it’s not because we have anything against them. I doubt when Rona and Home Depot applied [to be located in the Cowichan Commons Mall] that council would have said: we can’t have two. I mean no disrespect to the Cowichan First Nation but I do not support turning this down.”

Siebring immediately jumped in, saying, “we are having this discussion because these are cannabis stores. We regulate cannabis. This is different from Rona and Home Depot.”

Coun. Christopher Justice supported Marsh.

“It’s not our decision on market share, to regulate competition. I’m very much in support of First Nations economic development. We’ve supported Costa Canna,” he said, adding that he felt there will be plenty of opportunity there, and competition could be a good thing.

“We’ve made every effort to keep the playing field level but we should not be turning down applications.”

Coun. Rob Douglas brought up another aspect entirely, while supporting the government application.

“I can appreciate what Costa Canna is propsoing. It’s an exciting vision. But, I see some real social benefits from the provincial application,” he said pointing to the “living wages” that employees there would be paid, plus the use of provincial profits for services for the community.

Coun. Rosalie Sawrie disagreed with Marsh, Justice, and Douglas.

“I don’t think the playing field is level. It’s a conflict for the province to be approving theirs while still considering Costa Canna.”

In the end, Siebring and Sawrie voted against passing third reading of the zoning bylaw, with Marsh, Douglas, and Justice voting for it. Councillors Tek Manhas and Debra Toporowski had stepped out of the discussions, declaring conflicts of interest.

North Cowichan CAO Ted Swabey urged councillors to keep to the idea of handling the application as purely a land use issue. Anything else, he said, was on a government to government level between Cowichan Tribes and the province, and if the municipality became involved “it would do more harm than good.”

There was considerable discussion on the possibility of adopting the bylaw at the same time, but council will wait for the next meeting before making that decision.

 

Coun. Christopher Justice says that councillors shouldn’t be dealing with marketshare or competition issues. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Coun. Rob Douglas says there are other issues such as: BC govt operation will offer ‘living wages’ to consider as well. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Coun. Kate Marsh says deciding on the pot shop applications should be based on land use alone. (Citizen file)

Just Posted

Robot proposed for cleaning of Town of Lake Cowichan reservoir

“It’s a low risk techonology that should be explored”

Swan seeking long-term Lake Cowichan residents

Kathryn Swan has lived in Lake Cowichan for 17 years but still… Continue reading

Mary Lowther column: Are you fit for gardening?

One wants to stay in shape to be able to garden when she gets old

Tim Hortons Smile Cookie Campaign raises $15,425 in Cowichan – that’s a lot of dough

By Mike Hancock During the week of Sept. 16-22, delicious Smile Cookies… Continue reading

Renowned Cowichan carver Simon Charlie remembered for his art and teaching

Cowichan Tribes’ carver’s birthday is Thursday

B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Use of force deemed justifiable in arrest of suspect after snowy chase near Nanaimo

Independent Investigation Office of B.C. reports on incident from late last winter

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

B.C. woman sends fight to reduce preventable medical errors to Victoria

Teri McGrath and South Okanagan senior’s centre members presented 150 signature petition to local MLA

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study

Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’

Transgender inmate in Surrey denied transfer to women’s prison

Petitioner argued denial of transfer to women’s prison was unreasonable and unfair

Community uses loophole to paint 16 rainbow crosswalks after B.C. council says no

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Most Read