Kelowna city council reverses itself on pot shop locations downtown

Council now says shops will be allowed on parts of Lawrence and Leon Avenues.

Kelowna city council has reversed its decision to ban stores selling cannabis from locating on stretches of two downtown streets once the recreation version of the drug becomes legal in Canada next month.

Following a public hearing on proposed rules for the location of pot shops in the city Tuesday night, council changed its plan so as to allow the stores to be located Leon and Lawrence Avenues, between Abbott Street and Bertram Street.

The move was made after five people who plan to have in the excluded areas spoke at the public hearing.

The change means as long as the application meets the other rules set out by the city for store locations, applicants can request to locate a store in any part of Kelowna.

The rules for location include:

• Locating stores that sell cannabis at least 500 metres from each other

• Locating them at least 500 metres from middle schools and high schools

• Locating them at least 150 metres from select parks

• Locating them only in commercial zones.

Related: Kelowna expecting hundreds of pot shop applications

The rules would apply equally to private and government-operated stores that sell cannabis.

Last month, when city staff recommended the rules to council, they said a window between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30 for pot shop applications would be opened and all application accepted during that time would be vetted by a nine-member committee made up of city and law enforcement officials. The committee will be appointed by council and is needed, according to staff, because the city is expecting an avalanche of applications, possible in the hundreds.

Staff say the planning department would be “crippled” if it had to deal with all the pot shop applications in addition to the regular number of other development applications it regularly has to deal with.

The applications approved by the committee would be sent to council for final approval.

Issues such as proposed location, business plans, security provisions and set backs will all be part of the vetting process.

Where two or more applications for the the same location come up equal, the city plans to hold a lottery to determine the winner.

The city has not capped the number of stores it will allow but say as more stores are approved the number of remaining available possible sites will decrease based on the required distances they must be from each other, parks and schools.

Recreational cannabis will be legal in Canada Oct. 17 but the city says it is unlikely stores selling the drug legally will be open in Kelowna before next spring.

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