Courtenay council gives nod to fourth cannabis retailer

At its Aug. 19 meeting, Courtenay Council denied an application for a non-medical cannabis retail outlet at 470 Puntledge Rd. but approved another at the strip mall at 2270 Cliffe Ave.

Oceanside Cannabis was hoping to open shop at Northgate Plaza at 470 Puntledge, just south of the Ryan Road/Highway 19 Bypass intersection. The proposed storefront fell within 400 metres of another cannabis retailer — a government store that council approved for the Washington Park Shopping Mall — though staff notes the bypass could act as barrier between the two stores. It also sat within 300 metres of the LINC Youth Centre and the Lewis Park playground, skate park and spray park. A 300-metre buffer from a playground is part of the City’s policy on retail cannabis sales, though staff notes the policy does not limit council from considering variances to separation distances.

“I think there’s value to the policy that we set in place for a 300-metre distance. Unfortunately, this doesn’t meet that,” said Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton, who voted to not proceed with a bylaw to allow a rezoning.

Mayor Bob Wells was especially concerned about the proximity to the basketball court and amenities at the LINC.

Coun. Wendy Morin also opposed the application. Couns. Doug Hillian, David Frisch and Melanie McCollum were in favour. Coun. Manno Theos was absent Monday, so the application was denied.

The City is processing applications for cannabis retailers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Up to five private retailers are allowed in Courtenay, along with one government-operated store. The provincial government gives final approval for licensing. Council has turned down applications from Leaf Compassion at 379 Fourth St., and from Fire in the Sky Cannabis to operate at 1025 Cliffe Ave. Bowser Cannabis was approved for 605/625 Cliffe Ave. but withdrew its application.

Along with the government store and The Patchi at 2270 Cliffe, council has approved applications from Muse Cannabis to open at Driftwood Mall, and from the Urban Smoke Shop to convert its store at 143 Fifth St. into a non-medical cannabis retailer.

Beaufort Botanicals — run by the owners of Blue Moon Estate Winery and Nature’s Way Farm — has applied to open a store at the corner of England and Sixth in the downtown core. Co-owner George Ehrler was the only person who spoke Monday at a public hearing about the application.

“We’ve decided as a family to open a cannabis retail store,” said Ehrler, who handed a Good Neighbour Agreement to City staff. “We have a lot of professional experience.”

Hillian noted concerns of area businesses about drug use in the neighbourhood.

“Yes, there’s going to be issues,” Ehrler said. “We realize the path going forward for the City is going to be interesting. We don’t know where it’s going to go. Everybody’s a bit worried about what’s going to happen with retail cannabis. We’re hopefully taking measures to mitigate that kind of stuff.”

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