First private pot shop applications wending way through Kelowna city hall

Unknown number of proposals rejected, while others headed to location lotteries

Nearly four months after recreational marijuana became legal in Canada, the City of Kelowna is ready to start looking at applications from would-be retailers.

The city has told 10 of the 35 the people who submitted bids to open cannabis retail stores in the city, their applications are moving forward.

In November the city received 41 applications, but community planning manager Ryan Smith said six dropped out for a variety of reasons. All of the proposals left were sent to a vetting committee before being forwarded to the planning department for a recommendation to council.

Smith said the vetting was rudimentary and looked at issues such as if there was a business plan in place, if there was a security plan in place, and how and where the businesses would be operated and located.

“It was not a huge deep dive,” he said, adding the 10 moving on are doing so because they have no competition for their desired locations. Those locations have not yet been made public.

He added, just because they are moving on does not mean they will automatically be recommended for approval.

Last fall, the planning department identified 900 possible sites in the city for pot shops, but said because of required distances from parks, schools and other cannabis retail stores, that number would drop as proposals were approved.

In addition to the 10 that are moving on, an undisclosed number are headed to lotteries. Those proposals were considered to be of equal merit but are vying for similar locations. The lotteries will be held at city hall on Friday, with only city staff and the applicants present, said Smith.

Beach City Cannabis was one of the applicants selected for the lottery and admitted in an Instagram post they had misgivings about the process.

“While we are proud of the results to date and are thrilled to still be in the running, it’s not without some mixed emotions. The possibility of all the hard work and expense coming down to a game of chance is a tough pill to swallow, but we always knew that this could be a possibility and we’ve prepared for the outcome either way,” read the post.

“We’ll know more about what’s to come later this week, and in the meantime we just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has been on this journey with us so far. “

An undisclosed number of applications were rejected by the vetting committee, which was made up the city clerk, the city’s business development officer, chief building inspector, business licensing manager, bylaw manager, and a member of both the RCMP and the planning department.

RELATED: Kelowna still waiting for first legal pot shop application

The city set up the committee in anticipation of the federal legalization of recreational cannabis in October because it feared its planning department would be overwhelmed with applications by operators wanting to open stores in the city.

Smith said at the time the planning department feared it would be “crippled” by having to deal with an onslaught of pot shop applications. But that did not materialize.

While the city first estimated it would receive “hundreds” of applications, in the end it only received 41. It decided, however, to still use the committee to vet the proposals it did receive.

The process for the 10 applications now wending their way through city hall is expected to take two to three months, said Smith.

City planning staff have said in the past they do not expect to see the first private recreational cannabis retail store open in Kelowna before late spring.

“We’re trying to get this done as quickly as possible,” said Smith.

Cognizant of criticism in the community that the process is taking too long, he added that, however, is not a concern at city hall.

“We want to do this right, no matter how long it takes.”

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