June 23rd, 2024

Cannabis store zoning set to be debated tonight by city council

By Collin Gallant on July 16, 2018.

NEWS FILE PHOTO
Medicine Hat City Hall is seen in this file photo. A final zoning proposal on cannabis store locations is to be debated tonight at city council's regular meeting.


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

City council will debate tonight a final zoning proposal of where cannabis stores can locate in Medicine Hat, but after a public consultation last winter on the controversial topic, only one formal submission will be considered in a public hearing.

Alberta Health Services says in a letter that will presented at tonight’s city council meeting that the agency would like to see greater separation distances from child-care facilities that are suggested in a draft bylaw from the city’s planning department.

AHS would also like to see additional rules against clustering the stores near liquor retailers, a regulation that’s not in the current draft.

“Overall, AHS is advising a precautionary approach be taken to minimize unintended consequences,” reads a letter from the provincial agency.

On public consumption, which will be dealt with in a separate city bylaw this fall, AHS takes a similar stance as with tobacco.

It warns against bylaws that would “normalize” smoking cannabis in public as a way to prevent use among youth and general exposure to second-hand smoke.

On Monday, city council will only debate where a recreational cannabis store can locate. A public hearing will be held at which any resident can present themselves.

More than 16 applications with Medicine Hat addresses have been filed with the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission, which is the agency with the power to recommend limits.

It, along with Alberta Justice announced in the spring minimum distances from schools and healthcare facilities, but those can be increased or more restrictions added by local municipalities.

The bylaw itself suggests an overlay map be used, meaning stores could locate in only specific areas, rather than entire zoning categories across the city.

That, said planners is to allay concerns about the soon-to-be legal narcotic in the community while giving potential shop owners opportunity to do business in high-profile commercial areas.

It recommends most areas of downtown, the Box Springs and Southwest Light industrial business parks, and long stretches of South Railway Street, southern reaches of Dunmore Road and 13th Avenue, TransCanada Way, as well as the Northlands commercial complex in Crescent Heights.

Specifically, AHS “recommends” that a 100-metre separation from liquor or tobacco retailers be included, as well as a 300-metre separation from other cannabis retailers, whereas the bylaw suggests no distance for either situation.

A 25-metre rule from day-care centres, suggested in the bylaw, should be increased to 300 metres, AHS suggests..

All development permits for cannabis retail require approval at a meeting of the municipal planning commission.

When the local proposal was introduced to the municipal planning commission, city planning staff said there was no consideration because a public survey that garnered the highest participation of any public survey by the city on record, suggested there was little concern.

As well, there are no rules for distances to other “sensitive uses” such as pawnshops or payday loan providers.

If the zoning map passes on Monday, it will only begin a further process for more than a dozen potential store owners to gain further approval.

Applicants for a provincial retail license would then need to correspond with the AGLC, which requires licenses to meet municipal zoning requirements.

It could touch off a flurry of activity as potential retailers attempt to be in business by the mid-October date of decriminalization

“These businesses have to be licensed, need development permits and occupancy inspections all before they go back to AGLC for license (processing),” said Jim Genge, of the city’s planning office.

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