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Process to approve third cannabis retail store in downtown moves to public stage

Buddy’s Place conducted their own online survey in December 2020, but their survey sample consists of nine Nelson-area residents compared to the 1,779 responses received for the City of Nelson survey.

A third cannabis retail store has applied to put down permanent roots in Nelson’s downtown despite a 2018 public survey supporting only two.

Although the cannabis cap of two stores in the region of downtown has been met, the owners of Buddy’s Place, a cannabis retail store at 356 Baker Street, applied to amend the Zoning Bylaw in order to increase the cap to three and permanently set up shop in the downtown.

City council passed the first two readings of the amending bylaw, opening the way for a public meeting to discuss the matter.

The extra downtown location could be created by reallocating the permitted space from Nelson Avenue to the downtown, thereby maintaining a citywide cap of five stores.

The zoning caps were adopted in response to public feedback through a survey in which 1,779 responses were received. Over half of respondents supported no more than two cannabis stores in the downtown. Only 16 per cent supported no cap at all, whereas 20 per cent wanted no cannabis stores in the downtown at all.

In a February 2019 “lottery” Buddy’s Place was not successful, losing out to two other stores for the downtown designations. However, they have been operating for about four years at their Baker Street location, applying for a three-year Temporary Use Permit (TUP) which was approved in March 2019.

“’Cannabis Retail Store’” is proposed to no longer be a permitted use in the C2 zone, as the C2 zone primarily covers the Nelson Avenue corridor,” noted the city staff report to council.

The report further noted that there were no material negative impacts of adopting the proposed amendment.

As well, 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.”

However, a recent report from city staff recommended 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.”

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.

The city map shows the cannabis retail locations in the downtown. — City of Nelson

Going public, online

City bylaws require that the applicant hold their own public consultation event, typically in the manner of an open house.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it was agreed that the applicant design an online consultation strategy.

The application and options were presented to the Advisory Planning Committee (APC) at its December 2020 meeting and the APC recommended approving the application.

Eight letters from adjacent business and property owners were received, of which seven supported the application. A ninth letter was received from a Nelson resident opposed to the application.

Although Buddy’s Place did not make the cut they have not indicated to the city whether efforts have been made to relocate to another zone.

“Rather, they are requesting permission to permanently operate in the downtown,” noted the city staff report. “If approved, the business’ intention is to purchase the building where they have been renting.”