June 23rd, 2024

Council OK’s local zoning for pot stores

By Collin Gallant on July 17, 2018.

Dr. Lucas Gursky, a medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services, speaks at Monday's public hearing on retail cannabis stroe regulations at Medicine Hat city council's meeting. AHS's position is to take a cautious approach to zoning the coming retail marijuana indsutry, and supported the proposed bylaw.--NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GALLANT


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

Medicine Hat city council has passed land-use regulations that would confine recreational cannabis outlets to some major commercial corridors and industrial parks, but without distance requirements from liquor stores and other pot sellers.

The bylaw, including a map passed 6-1, was called a “careful” approach to allowing sales of soon-to-be legal marijuana this fall, though some council members called it “liberal” or requested more relaxed options.

Coun. Darren Hirsch, who dealt with the issue as the vice-chair of the municipal planning commission, said “it’s a balance between some hesitancy from the people of Medicine Hat and those who want to set up stores.”

The province announced in the spring a minimum distance of 100 metres from schools and health facilities would be mandatory, but municipalities could increase that distance or add other regulations.

Medicine Hat’s would be 300 metres in the proposal by local planners.

At least six local applications before the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission have attached addresses within a one-block radius in the downtown core. Others are located S. Railway Street, Kingsway Avenue, Dunmore Road, the commercial park at the north end of Division Avenue, the Southwest Light Industrial Area and Box Springs Business Park. All those areas, as well as Trans-Canada Way and 13th Avenue, have portions the bylaw considers as suitable.

Beyond school and health separations, local shops can’t be within 25 metres of child care facilities (essentially banning them from being next door), or in smaller commercial plazas.

Coun. Kris Samraj voted against that, saying he wanted staff to provide a map showing only the bare minimum provincial zoning requirements for council to consider.

“The fear is we’ll have a weed store on every corner, and that’s unfounded,” he told council. “This will be a heavily regulated industry.”

Samraj also said he found it contradictory that shops would be kept out of neighbourhoods for fear of normalizing the drug among youth, but they would be allowed downtown and all around the Medicine Hat Mall.

“In terms of less regulation, the (minimums) are worth looking at,” he said.

Coun. Robert Dumanowski called the city’s public engagement process thorough and the proposal a cautious approach considering the controversies and potential effects.

“On my own moral ground, I’m not in support of (legalization),” he said. “But, we have a responsibility in local government to accommodate (these businesses) and also do what’s in the best interest of the community.

“We’re not going to make everyone happy but we need to careful not to go too quickly, too soon.”

Development commissioner Stan Schwartzenberger said his staff created the initial bylaw to be conservative, the thought being that easing restrictions would be preferable to rewriting the bylaw to deal with conflicts later on.

Mayor Ted Clugston said any future changes would, perhaps after one year, likely be complaint based.

“I believe in a go-slow approach, but really this is a fairly liberal bylaw,” he said. “There are five zones that encompass quite a bit of real estate. It’s a good first start.”

With zoning now in place, prospective retailers that are compliant can launch the second phase of provincial licensing process.

The city will also have to develop a business licensing bylaw that should be ready for a council vote in September. That will lay down fees and other possible restrictions.

Since “cannabis retail store” is a discretionary use in the overlay map areas, each proposal will have to go to the municipal planning commission for approval.

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