Urban Smoke Shop on Fifth Street has applied to the City of Courtenay for a storefront cannabis business licence. Scott Stanfield photo

Courtenay council considers third cannabis applicant

Urban Smoke wants to convert into non-medical cannabis shop

The City of Courtenay has received a third application for a storefront cannabis business. Urban Smoke Shop, which sells tobacco, pipes and other items at 143 Fifth St., wants to convert its shop into a non-medical cannabis retailer. The City says the proposal satisfies its Storefront Cannabis Retailers Policy, except for a 300-metre distance requirement from playgrounds. The closest park is 70-plus metres away on Anderton Avenue. There is also a small playground about 240 metres away at Simms Park. The City, however, is not concerned about proximity to the Simms playground considering the separation provided by the river. As for Riverside Park on Anderton, the fitness park is not designated as a children’s playground.

“Staff are confident that there’ll be no conflict there with that distance with children coming and going,” Ian Buck, director of development services, said Monday at Courtenay council.

In a public survey on retail cannabis, 74 per cent of respondents strongly supported limiting the distance from playgrounds. However, the policy does not limit council from considering variances to separation distances “based on circumstances related to a specific application, if council finds the proposal is reasonable,” a report states.

Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton is concerned about proximity to Simms and Lewis parks, which serve as “Courtenay’s beach” for many months of the year.

“I see clearly that most of Simms Park and much of Lewis Park is within 300 metres, including the playground,” he said, questioning how staff can conclude that proximity to the parks is not a concern.

Buck notes that not all parks are included in the 300-metre distance.

“It’s still within council’s purview to accept or reject applications for zoning based on a number of criteria, whether you want to go below that distance, or based on the circumstances of the neighbourhood, just want to reject the application,” Buck said.

Cole-Hamilton was the lone member of council to oppose second reading of a rezoning to allow the business. A public hearing about the application will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, March 18 in council chambers.

Council approved a rezoning to allow the first applicant, Muse Cannabis, to open a cannabis retail store at Driftwood Mall. The second application, from the Liquor Distribution Branch, is for a cannabis shop next to Ricky’s at the Washington Park Shopping Centre on Ryan Road. There were no speakers about the second application at Monday’s public hearing.

The City is processing nine rezoning applications for cannabis businesses on a first-come, first-serve basis. The City allows for a maximum of five private cannabis retailers in Courtenay, and one government-operated store. The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch decides on final approval of licensing.

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