June 15th, 2024

Pot stores zoned, but more to do

By Collin Gallant on July 18, 2018.

Marijuana plants are pictured during a tour of Tweed Inc. in Smiths Falls, Ont., on Thursday, January 21, 2016. The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

Setting up a cannabis retail store is now a legal use of land in the City of Medicine Hat after council passed a zoning bylaw Monday night.

But that’s only one more step toward the eventual legal sale of the long prohibited drug this fall.

Council voted 6-1 to accept an overlay map where retail sales of cannabis would be allowed — mainly in dense commercial corridors or industrial parks.

That allows prospective shop keepers the ability to update provincial licence applications showing proposed locations comply with local laws.

And since such a store is discretionary use, each and every one of perhaps a dozen applicants will have to appear at the city’s municipal planning commission to lay out their plans.

That’s due before an Oct. 17 legalization date about 90 days away.

“They have to fit into the nodes,” said planning commission chair Coun. Brian Varga. “But it might come to us and there might be yeas and nays, who say maybe that’s not a good spot.”

Beyond a flurry of work for planners and the commission, council will also have to develop amendments to its business licensing bylaws.

That will institute a fee, and could lay down some operating requirements, such as limiting store hours.

The zoning bylaw employs an overlay map that allows shops to set up along particular stretches of busy arteries, in commercial development or industrial parks.

That’s opposed to the traditional method of changing definitions of particular zones, thereby allowing them in any such zone in the city.

Planners say the overlay limits the general areas where the controversial businesses can exist, while still allowing access to strong retail locations.

City commissioner of development Stan Schwartzenberger said it is “an atypical situation” for two levels of government to develop legislation at the same time, and city planners have attempted to expedite the process.

When any business sets up at a new location it generally requires a development permit, then separate building permits if upgrades are required.

Schwartzenberger said work could proceed, but that process is typically at the owner’s risk.

In the case of cannabis stores, the AGLC requires outlets to have alarm systems, “secure” storage area, its own shipping and receiving area and a video surveillance system.

The city’s building inspection department says its mandate is to inspect construction work, though AGLC inspectors will determine if provincial requirements are met.

The generally reported figure is that Alberta could allow up to 250 stores province-wide to service a population of about 4 million residents.

City planners assume the local market could support 10.

The News has tracked listings of locations on the AGLC website when they are listed for a 21-day period for potential objects. About 16 applications have local addresses. The News is not aware of any applications based in Cypress County or Redcliff.

The city’s licensing fee will be made public in the late summer or September, officials say.

In terms of provincial costs, applicants for a licence must pay a $400 fee for each location, then a $700 annual licensing fee.

An initial $3,000 fee goes toward background checks and other investigation, though the agency notes some unfunded portion may be refunded.

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