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Temporary use permit granted to third downtown cannabis business

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
March 6th, 2019

The city will be receiving a third cannabis recreational retail outlet in its downtown despite solicited public opinion asking for there to be a cap at two.

A temporary use permit (TUP) for Buddy’s Place has been approved by city council for three years based on the business’s solid track record and compliance with many of the requirements of operation.

Only two cannabis operations are allowed in the downtown according to the city bylaws pertaining to cannabis, but Buddy’s Place owners had applied for the TUP until the Baker Street operation could find a new home in one of the other allowable zones.

Last month Buddy’s Place drew the short straw in the lottery to determine which two of the three applicants for a downtown business licence would be allowed to operate. However, a process of temporary use had already been put in place to allow a cannabis business to operate while it searched for another spot.

Buddy’s Place has been operating for about two years at 356 Baker Street. Their application score as presented to council last month was 93.5 per cent due to a failed fire department inspection in January 2019; however, the deficiencies were rectified and a subsequent fire inspection passed them, returning their score to 100 per cent.

A TUP can be issued by council to allow a use not permitted by the zoning bylaw or to vary a use, and it may specify conditions of that temporary use. 

“A TUP may be issued for up to three years and can be renewed once, subject to council approval,” said city senior planner Alex Thumm.

Coun. Brittny Anderson made an amendment to the TUP motion on Monday night in council, citing the climate of the cannabis business had changed and that the two years first proposed as the time frame for temporary use was too short.

“Legalized cannabis is a difficult business … they are operating in a very tough environment. And it will be tough to operate under a temporary use permit for two years while looking for a new place,” she said.

City manager Kevin Cormack said the cannabis business owners knew heading into the legalization process the temporary use permit could be available for two years to help them transition to new area if need be.

The Zoning Bylaw limits the number of cannabis retail stores to two in the downtown, one in Railtown, one in the Lakeside/Industrial area, and one along Nelson Avenue. 

He also acknowledged that the amount of vacant retail space in the city was extremely limited.

“It’s difficult to find those locations so that was the rationale behind the two years,” he said.

It was clear that at least one of the existing medical dispensaries would not be permitted post-legalization. However, the three dispensaries could not have predicted the scoring and lottery results and thus, given the tight rental market in the city, none sought out an alternative location should they lose the lottery, Thumm explained.

A TUP would afford the applicant time to seek out a new location in the Railtown or Nelson Avenue districts in order to come into compliance with the new zoning. If, after two years, a new location has not been found, the applicant may apply to council for a renewal and present their plan to comply with zoning.

The existing zoning regulations and caps were recently adopted in response to public feedback. Over half of the 2018 survey respondents supported no more than two cannabis stores in the downtown. Only 16 per cent wanted no cap at all.

Logtenberg felt it should be three years to reflect the constraints of the search.

Mayor John Dooley noted that what was offered up by city staff was a reasonable amount of time and should not be changed.

He said the two years would not only give the business a chance to find a new home, but it could also give the city time to re-open public consultation on the rules regarding recreational cannabis in the city, possibly allowing more outlets in the downtown.

“And so we can ask the people of Nelson what they think because we are actually making this decision on behalf of everybody in Nelson tonight when, in actual fact, they asked us to do something completely different,” he said.

In the extensive community consultation process leading up to legalization the city gleaned that the community did not want to grant temporary use permits for recreational cannabis businesses.

But because of a denied application from a good business like Buddy’s Place, Dooley felt the fairest option was to grant a temporary use permit until they could move.

The amendment for three years instead of two passed, while the temporary use permit itself was also granted for Buddy’s Place.

Council’s resolution on the application will be sent back to the province. If no resolution is passed, the application will simply be put on hold; there is no deadline by which council must consider recommendation. 

Once an applicant holds a provincial licence, they will be able to operate once they obtain a municipal business licence. Council approval will not be required at the business licence application stage.

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