Lake Country will not be the first municipality to have a recreational cannabis facility in the Okanagan, like the owner of a medical weed facility once thought.
A bylaw variance which would have been a step to allow Compass Cannabis Clinic at Turtle Bay Crossing to transform from a cannabis medical clinic to a recreational shop, was narrowly defeated by council after a back-and-forth discussion Tuesday night during a regular council meeting.
Staff recommended that council reduce a buffer requirement between a daycare on Pretty Road and Compass Cannabis Clinic from 400 to 150 metres, as a daycare is operating with a temporary use permit and that the owner of the daycare supported the clinic.
However, council was split on what to do and ultimately defeated the motion, setting Compass Cannabis back.
With the district’s new zoning amendments, recreational cannabis can be sold in the town centre and at Turtle Bay Crossing. There is also no buffer between shops, so they can be located side by side. However as long as the daycare continues to operate near Turtle Bay Crossing, no recreational shops will be allowed in that location.
Dave Martyn, founder of Compass Cannabis, said he was stunned with council’s decision and is now considering pulling out of the Okanagan entirely. Last week, he was optimistic about the variance’s approval, saying Compass Cannabis had the potential to be the first recreational shop in the Okanagan.
“It’s disappointing. I think it’s a poor move on a lot of levels,” he said. “I think Lake Country has probably taken a stance against cannabis businesses in a negative manner. I find it surprising given that this would have been the first in the Okanagan.”
“Honestly for us as an Okanagan based business, (which) has looked outside of the Okanagan for corporate offices and things like that, I would suggest you would see a likelihood of the business leaving here and the jobs leaving with it.”
Coun. Bill Scarrow made the argument that the daycare owner approves of the facility, that it’s similar to a liquor distributor and that if pot shops aren’t allowed at Turtle Bay Crossing, that only leaves one other option for them in the district.
“We need to have balance and we need them on either side of the community,” he said.
Coun. Jerremy Kozub and Coun. Todd McKenzie also gave their support to the variance, but Coun. Blair Ireland, Coun. Penny Gambell, Mayor James Baker and Coun. Cara Reed rejected it.
Gambell said the 400 m buffer between shops and daycares should be maintained, as it could be a potential hazard for children, and that other products like edibles will eventually be sold at that location that council needs to consider.
McKenzie said he supported the variance because of how few locations there is for pot shops in the district.
Baker said there is also a concern with traffic at that intersection which led to the defeat of a second fast food restaurant at Turtle Bay Crossing, and the applicant was well aware of the daycare and process as the bylaw was being created.
The cost of a business licence for recreational shops and grow facilities are free to companies for the first calendar year before moving to $500 per year for a license after that.
Council also agreed to give first, second and third readings to a fee amendment bylaw which would require that number to increase to $550 for a cannabis licence application, which includes the requirement of two newspaper ads and surrounding property letters.
In Kelowna, the city doesn’t except its first facility to be in operation until the spring of 2019. West Kelowna did not give a time frame of when its first facility would be open but has limited the number of shops to four. Peachland does not currently allow recreational shops in the district.
Summerland may now have the first pot shop in the Okanagan, is the town’s deadline for applications is Dec. 10. Vernon’s earliest deadline for processing applications is in January, while Penticton is still in the process of developing its regulatory framework.