The walls are nearly stripped bare, one couch and a few photos of cannabis buds are all that’s left inside Compass Cannabis Clinic, a cannabis medical consulting firm that has one foot out of Lake Country’s door.
Dave Martyn, founder of Compass Cannabis and Lake Country resident, hoped to transform the clinic at Turtle Bay Crossing into a Starbuds recreational cannabis retail facility and be the first shop in the Okanagan to sell weed, but that goal remains in limbo.
After public outrage following Lake Country council’s rejection of a variance Tuesday for a bylaw that would be a step in allowing the store to operate, Mayor James Baker is bringing it back for a second go.
The bylaw variance was narrowly defeated by council Tuesday night after a back-and-forth discussion during its regular meeting.
“The expectation was that the licence was coming,” Martyn said, adding there hasn’t been any opposition from neighbours, service providers or the Lake Country residents.
District staff recommended council reduce a buffer requirement between a daycare on Pretty Road and the proposed store to 150 metres from 400 metres because the daycare is operating with a temporary use permit and the owner supported the clinic.
However, council was split on what to do and defeated the motion, setting Compass Cannabis back.
Baker said he’s bringing the variance back to the Dec. 18 council meeting after a request of the facility, which wishes to present information.
Lake Country residents voiced their opinions through Facebook, showing support for the facility and criticized council. Baker said he had not heard anything from the community, but the public is welcome to give him a call or voice their opinions at council meetings.
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.
Martyn 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 argued Tuesday the daycare owner approves of the facility, it’s similar to a liquor distributor and if pot shops aren’t allowed at Turtle Bay Crossing that will only leave one other location in the town centre for a store.
“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 supported the variance, but Coun. Blair Ireland, Penny Gambell, Cara Reed and Baker opposed it.
Gambell said the 400-metre buffer between pot shops and daycares should be maintained, as it could be a potential hazard for children and other products like edibles will eventually be sold in stores and council needs to take that into consideration.
McKenzie said he supported the variance because of how few locations there are for pot shops in the district.
Baker said there is also a concern with traffic at a nearby intersection and that led to the defeat of a second fast food restaurant at Turtle Bay Crossing. He added 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, as 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.
Martyn said there’s still hope for the facility to be the first in the Okanagan, but if this variance isn’t approved during the Dec. 18 council meeting Compass Cannabis will not remain in Lake Country.