November 14th, 2018

City zones pot stores

By Collin Gallant on June 12, 2018.

A map showing locations in the city where marijuana retail operations will be permitted. City planners have been working on the proposed zoning for months and will send it off this week to city committee, then on to council.--SUBMITTED IMAGE

When marijuana is legalized for recreational use it might be coming to a store near you, but most likely not, according to a proposed zoning map that will be presented this week by Medicine Hat city planners.

Since last fall city hall officials have been accepting public feedback, watching the legislation move forward and drafting local rules about where retail locations can be located.

The proposed zones will be presented to the municipal planning commission on Wednesday and comprise mainly large commercial developments, industrial areas and most of the eastern portions of downtown.

That’s largely consistent with the results of a public feedback survey about possible restrictions the city conducted in the winter. It also adds to provincially mandated minimums, adding distance between shops and schools, and adding daycares and parks, among others, to a list of uses requiring a separation from pot stores.

An overlay map also keeps the stores out of most major residential areas, nixing the idea of stores in smaller neighbourhood commercial blocks that are “embedded” among residences.

A rationale also states the permitted zones are on prime commercial corridors and centres and in industrial areas, protects that use while allowing generally out-of-sync small retail operations.

After this week’s meeting, the changes would be introduced next week to council, prior to debate and a public hearing in July.

“Overlay” is a planning term used when officials, essentially, make a map of districts where shops could set up rather than rewrite definitions of certain zones, such as commercial or residential. It can ease the development process, but doesn’t make a blanket change in similar zones across the city.

The move to reverse decades of prohibition on the substance led to a rush of licence applications, but also planning confusion.

Potential retail store owners had to apply to provincial regulators with a proposed address to get a licence from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

That address must comply with local rules as a stipulation, though many local jurisdictions, including Medicine Hat, are still working on land-use regulations.

At least nine licence applications have been made with Medicine Hat addresses, and all but one appear to be compliant with the local proposal.

This winter the Alberta government announced its zoning restrictions — minimum standards cities must abide by, but with the ability to enact stricter controls or lengthen setbacks or distances from other homes or businesses.

Provincial guidelines state a store must be 100 metres from a public health-care facility, school or land designated as a school site.

The proposed Medicine Hat bylaw would extend that distance requirement from the public library and recreation facilities.

A 25-metre separation requirement would be in place from emergency shelters, addiction treatment centres, community health services, daycares and public playgrounds.

The map as drawn will result in a 300-metre distance from most schools, avoid existing buildings and properties with “potentially sensitive” uses, such as playgrounds, according to documents.

The proposed zones show non-medicinal marijuana sales allowed:

— Downtown, on Second and Third Streets, east of Fourth Avenue, not including Batus Park, or CORE Association, and Fourth Street, east of Third Avenue, not including St. Barnabus Church, and portions of Fifth Street;

— Most addresses on South Railway Street and Kingsway Avenue;

— Dunmore Road, south of Southview Drive, including large commercial districts on Carry Drive;

— 13th Avenue, south of 27th Street, excluding residential properties;

— Trans-Canada Way;

— Strachan Road, from Strachan Court up to residential areas of Southlands;

— Southwest Industrial Area, west of 10th Avenue, plus Red Deer Drive;

— the Box Springs Business Park and Brier Park industrial estates, including a long portion of Saamis Drive;

— in Crescent Heights, large commercial developments near the intersection of Division Avenue and 23rd Street.

Ottawa intends to pass two acts this summer — the Cannabis Act and amendments to the Criminal Code — that would allow legal sales. That was to occur on July 1, but is now considered delayed until late summer or the fall.

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