Summerland council approves downtown location for pot shop

Public had voice strong opposition to proposed location

Despite opposition from the community, a non-medical cannabis store proposed for Summerland’s downtown core has received council support.

At the municipal council meeting on Monday evening, council voted unanimously to forward the recommendation for the store to the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

While council gave unanimous support to the application, the proposed shop, at 13203 Victoria Rd. N., had generated some opposition.

Dionne Bakalos, owner of Summerland Gold and Silver Exchange and also Green Gaia, a cannabis shop at Summerfair Shopping Centre, submitted a petition to council, with 40 signatures.

The petition calls for the exclusion of cannabis shops from the downtown area, a cap on the number of cannabis retail licenses in Summerland and a minimum distance of 750 metres between cannabis retail stores.

READ ALSO: Proposed Summerland cannabis location meets existing regulations

READ ALSO: Petition urges limits on retail cannabis stores in Summerland

Under present regulations, cannabis shops are permitted at Summerfair Shopping Centre and in the downtown area. The petition, if it were to be approved, would allow just one cannabis shop in Summerland, at the shopping centre.

Bakalos also had submitted a letter in opposition to the proposed downtown cannabis store, but on Monday, before the council meeting, she retracted her letter.

Another letter in opposition to the business was also retracted.

READ ALSO: Summerland council to consider cannabis shop

However, others expressed their opposition to the proposed location.

In a letter to council, Del Riemer said the downtown location is not a suitable place for a cannabis retail store.

“Our Memorial Park is already a place to be avoided in the summer time because of the use of substances, needles and associated behaviour,” his letter stated. “Please do not add fuel to this situation by permitting these establishments to choose their location in close proximity to these vulnerable and desirable places of public congregation.”

Roch Fortin, who has spoken out in opposition to cannabis stores in the downtown area, said Summerland’s 50-metre buffer around parks and schools is too small. He suggested a 300-metre buffer, which is used in other communities.

The proposed location is 200 metres from the edge of the Summerland Secondary School property and 260 metres from the Summerland Middle School property.

READ ALSO: Summerland ready for marijuana sales

Fortin said his concerns are about stores in the downtown core, not about stores elsewhere in the community.

“I am not opposing the opening of non-medical cannabis shops in Summerland,” he said.

Dave Stathers, a trustee with the Okanagan Skaha School Board, said the board has concerns about the downtown location since it is too close to schools in Summerland. He said 750 students at the two schools are within a three-minute walk of the location.

He added that the hours of operation, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, do not fit with the standard business hours in the downtown core.

“There are other better potential locations,” he said.

Last year, before cannabis was legalized in Canada, Summerland council discussed the regulations for retail stores in the community. The topic attracted little public comment at the time.

Coun. Doug Patan said the application has met all the criteria set out by the municipality. Concerns about shops in the downtown area should have been discussed earlier, before the application came to council, he said.

Coun. Erin Carlson said the community should welcome people who are coming in to invest in Summerland.

Coun. Doug Holmes said the number of shops within the community should be up to the free market to decide.

Coun. Marty Van Alphen said the final decision on whether to approve the store is in the hands of the province

Mayor Toni Boot said there was an earlier opportunity for the public to raise concerns about the location of cannabis retail stores in Summerland. To turn away the business now seems hypocritical, she said.

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