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City snuffs out variance permit for non-medical cannabis store

Grand Forks city council narrowly voted against approving the development variance permit application recently to reduce — from 100 metres to 36 m. — the setback distance from a building or structure in the Community Use Zone at 7500 Donaldson Drive for Weeds Glass and Gifts. — Photo courtesy City of Grand Forks

The city slammed the door on another non-medical cannabis retail licence application for Grand Forks, denying a development variance deemed for Donaldson Drive in the old Greyhound Bus depot.

City council narrowly voted against approving the development variance permit application recently to reduce — from 100 metres to 36 m. — the setback distance from a building or structure in the Community Use Zone at 7500 Donaldson Drive for Weeds Glass and Gifts.

In late March council soundly denied an application for a non-medical cannabis retail licence application in the downtown on Central Avenue.

As soon as the motion was introduced by Coun. Christine Thompson to deny the application Mayor Brian Taylor spoke against the motion.

Taylor said the city had a poorly defined Community Use Zone, the motion going too far within that particular zoning regulation to uphold the 100-m. setback.

“I think this was meant to be used judiciously, but in time I see it as an overreach of council to impose this on what is basically an adult-use facility, not a children’s facility,” he said.

Coun. Chris Moslin agreed that enforcement of the setback was arbitrary.

“There is no way we are saving children from the influence of this retail business simply because of (the difference of) 64 metres. Children walk by all of the other stores in town as well. One hundred metres is, in my mind, kind of non-sensical and really has nothing to do with it at all. It does not protect children at all,” he explained.

“Once we set precedence and don’t support bylaws we open up doors to repeated abuse,” of bylaws, noted Coun. Cathy Korolek.

The second time the motion went around the council table Mayor Taylor stepped in.

“This is a gross over reach and I think we should remove that bylaw from our list of bylaws,” he said.

“There is no scientific support for that contentious issue in terms of this being dangerous. There is no data behind this doing anything troubling in our community other than making it difficult for someone to do business here.”

Mayor Taylor said the motion would show the city as a cannabis unfriendly community.

However, Coun. Thompson argued that council should not break with the past.

“The bylaw is the bylaw and we cannot break what the bylaws say,” she said. “It’s a permitted use in that area if outside of 100 metres.”

But it wasn’t and is, therefore, in violation of the bylaw, she concluded.

The property owner, 1179711 BC Ltd., had applied to the City of Grand Forks for a development variance permit to vary subsection 58.3 of Zoning Bylaw 2039 to reduce, from 100 m. to 36 m., the setback distance from a building or structure to the nearest parcel boundary of a lot in a Community Use Zone. The applicant had proposed operating hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

The subject property was the previous location of the Greyhound Bus depot and currently houses the warming shelter.

The closest edge of the building that was proposed to house the non-medical cannabis retail store is 36 m. from the property boundary of James Donaldson Park. The park is zoned CU.

A letter from the Interior Health Authority recommended that the city “consider supporting a public health approach to retail sale of non-medical cannabis.”

In addition the letter spoke to selecting locations that reduced exposure to cannabis marketing to youth and “discourage harmful patterns of consumption in the general population as the desired option.”

James Donaldson Park was noted as being “potentially used by kids and the arena and aquatic centre being within 350 m. of the proposed cannabis retail store.”