Today’s Poll

Cannabis culture grows to three in downtown despite public survey results

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
April 9th, 2021

The third cannabis store has officially been inducted into the city’s downtown.

Buddy’s Place, a cannabis retail store at 356 Baker Street, has stretched the cap of two cannabis retail stores in the downtown to three, after city council’s recent approval.

The zoning amendment bylaw now permits a third cannabis retail store in the downtown by reallocating the unused permitted space on Nelson Avenue to the downtown, thereby maintaining a citywide cap of five stores, noted a staff report by city planner Alex Thumm.

The Potorium on Baker and The Kootenays Cannabis Tree on Front Street are the other two stores in the downtown.

Although the cannabis cap of two stores in the region of downtown had been met, the owners of Buddy’s Place applied to amend the Zoning Bylaw in order to increase the cap to three and permanently set up shop in the downtown, moving beyond their temporary use permit which was running out of time.

The council decision contradicts a city staff recommendation on the matter. In January a report advised against the application on the basis of the results from a 2018 public survey that concluded that the “majority of the public and business community wanted no more than two stores in the downtown.”

As a result, zoning caps were adopted in response to that public feedback in the survey (in which 1,779 responses were received). Only 16 per cent of those surveyed supported no cap at all, whereas 20 per cent wanted no cannabis stores in the downtown at all.

The amendment also reverses a city council decision from February 2019 to deny Buddy’s Place a spot in the downtown. At the time a “lottery” for the two downtown spots left Buddy’s Place out of the running, losing out to two other stores for the downtown designations.

However, they had managed to apply for a three-year temporary use permit which was approved in March 2019.

“No material negative impacts of adopting the proposed amendment have been identified,” noted Thumm in his latest report, despite the 2018 public survey.

The amending bylaw aligns with the Official Community Plan’s (OCP) objectives to “retain downtown as the commercial centre of the city” and “to retain the predominance of Baker Street as the retail commercial spine of Downtown Nelson.”

The city will now inform the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch that the Zoning Bylaw has been amended to permanently allow for a third cannabis retail store in the downtown.

Being proactive

The owners of Buddy’s Place conducted their own online survey in December 2020, showing greater public support for downtown cannabis retail than in 2018.

But their survey sample consists of nine Nelson-area residents compared to the 1,779 responses received for the City of Nelson survey.

“With the Kootenay Cannabis Tree’s location on Front Street at Josephine, from many people’s perspective there are essentially three stores in the downtown already, not including Buddy’s Place,” the report stated.

“However, council should be aware that the city has not received any complaints about this business’ operations. There does not appear to be any unintended or harmful result of its presence downtown.”

The nearest cannabis store, The Potorium on Baker near Ward Street, is beyond 120 metres away, which means it has met the standard separation distances.

Going public, COVID-style

A public hearing pursuant to the Local Government Act and the Development Applications Procedures Bylaw was held immediately prior to the March 9 regular city council meeting.

City bylaws require an applicant to hold their own public consultation event.

“This is typically in the form of an open house, but due to COVID-19, staff and the applicant agreed that the applicant should design an online consultation strategy,” noted the staff report to council.

Since Nov. 12 of last year a development sign has been posted in the front window of the store, yet no comments were received at City Hall.

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