If you want to operate a non-medical cannabis retail store in Vernon, and haven’t already applied to the city, you’re too late.
At its regular meeting Monday, Vernon council unanimously directed administration to place a moratorium on any further applications effective July 29.
The motion came from Coun. Kari Gares after council supported three more applications, and there are two further applications waiting to be heard.
Council has dealt with 21 applications thus far, and has also placed a cap on such stores for the downtown business improvement area at six, to be reviewed after a year. Six applications for shops downtown have been supported by council and sent off to Victoria for consideration, while five more applications for downtown are in a holding pattern.
Once council gives support to an application, it’s then sent to Victoria for approval consideration.
“If we don’t do anything, we’re open season,” said Gares, who suggested capping applications on a per capita basis. “We can just simply decline them but, honestly, how do you decline one when you’ve approved one that’s exactly the same? You can’t. That’s favouritism in its biggest sense.
“I think we have a responsibility to say ‘You know what, let’s see how this plays out and let’s reevaluate, whether it’s a year or two down the road.’ I think two years would be a good time frame to allow them (shops) to get their feet on the ground. If we don’t do anything, we could have another five on our plate because we are open. We’ve made that very clear from the get-go. Most of these businesses coming in aren’t even local. They’re coming from other communities. We are open. We didn’t put a cap. We didn’t regulate.”
None of the three applications supported by council Monday were in the downtown core.
The first was for a shop in the old Toro’s Pub location on Kalamalka Lake Road which brought concern from owners of a dance studio nearby, as the property is almost entirely fenced save for one small portion, which brings people through the property onto theirs.
Coun. Scott Anderson motioned to refer the application to the province with Victoria adding a requirement to install a fence. Coun. Dalvir Nahal was opposed.
Application two was for a shop in the Landing Plaza, less than a block from the already opened and operating Greenhorn store beside the Longhorn Pub on 25th Avenue.
“There are two letters of support for this application, 12 negatives, two letters of concern and two with no concern,” said Craig Broderick, city manager of current planning.
Coun. Akbal Mund is concerned about the location being a “high-traffic area” for students from Fulton Secondary with a fast food restaurant and pizza shop neighbouring the potential cannabis retail outlet.
“The negatives far outweigh the positives. That concerns me a bit,” said Anderson, adding his daughter went to Fulton and knows there is a “steady stream of kids” going to that area at lunchtime.
Most of the letters of concern came from the neighbouring Big Chief Trailer Park across the way on 25th Avenue, which drew a response from Nahal.
“Everyone’s acting like it’s a gun store with open doors and kids can come in and out,” said Nahal.
“There are strict policies. People that are applying for these stores know who can and can’t come in. As far as the seniors complaining, they don’t seem to have a problem with the pub across the street, the cannabis store across the street, the liquor store across the street, but another cannabis application is going to change their life. And all the thugs are going to come to this one, not the other one. It makes no sense.”
The application passed with Anderson opposed.
The third application is for a shop in the Vernon Square plaza, which had little opposition and was given council’s unanimous support.
Mayor Victor Cumming was absent from Monday’s meeting. Coun. Brian Quiring served as acting mayor.