Kelowna city council denied a government pot shop application

No go to government pot

The province will have to wait, or find a new location, for a retail government cannabis store.

Council voted 5-4 to deny the BC Liquor Distribution Branch application for a retail store in the Willow Park Shopping Centre.

The vote affirmed a staff recommendation against the government store.

The reason, it's too close to a private store already approved across the highway.

The stores would be situated just 110 metres (lot line to lot line) from each other, well inside the council-approved setback of 500 metres.

The vote Monday went contrary to one two months ago in which six of the nine on council agreed to defy a staff recommendation and approved a cannabis store at the corner of Leon Avenue and Pandosy Street, even though it is less than 300 metres from another Bernard Avenue store.

Councillors Luke Stack, Maxine DeHart and Mohini Singh, who approved the downtown location, voted no Monday.

"The one in downtown Kelowna I did support. In that instance, it was because we only had one in what we consider the downtown area," said Stack.

"Because of the 18 stores that have been approved...I do agree we need to let some of those open first and see what the impact is. I find it's easier to make an adjustment down the road to add more than try to subtract."

Presently, just two stores have opened, on Springfield Road and Rutland Road. The remaining 16 are either in the process of opening or are awaiting provincial approval.

Stack said council can revisit the 500 metre policy once more stores are up and running.

Coun. Charlie Hodge, who disagreed with the 500 metre distance when it was first approved in 2018, says he still considers the limitation to be punitive for retail operators.

"I personally found our 500 metre limitation to be punitive for retail. We don't have the same limitation for shoe stores, grocery stores or barber shops. The only thing that comes close is for liquor distribution," he said.

"It seems to me is what we're saying is while marijuana is considered legal, we still want to taint it with a negative approach. If it's legal it's legal, if not, it's not."

Coun. Gail Given agreed council doesn't want to create a "Green Mile" with store after store on the same block but, in this instance, believes the distance wouldn't look that way.

"While the property lines are close together, because they are in a mall setting and separated by a highway and visually don't appear to be collecting, I am willing to support this," said Given.

Councillors Given, Hodge and Wooldridge and Mayor Basran all voted against the staff recommendation.

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