Second cannabis retail proposal to go before community

Alexander and O’Toole vote against first and second reading

The location of the proposed store at 1160 Sun Peaks Road. Photo Google Maps

A proposal to rezone a Sun Peaks property to allow cannabis sales came before municipal council last night, April 16, and received first and second reading with councillors Darcy Alexander and Rob O’Toole voting opposed to both readings. The proposal will now go before the community at a public hearing.

It’s the second cannabis proposal to make it before council. The first, from Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR), was presented in February and was unopposed by all councillors.

Councillor and SPR general manager Darcy Alexander expressed concern about the second proposal and questioned if the community wanted a retail cannabis store.

“This is difficult for every small community in the country right now,” he said. “We really don’t know what this looks like in the future…we don’t know if the community even wants this.

“We’ve spent 25, 30 years developing a family resort community here and I’m not sure our community is ready for this.”

The position differed from his statements on SPR’s application, which included a gas station and cannabis retail store on a lot at 1235 Alpine Road. It’s unknown who would operate said store. Alexander said SPR is applying for rezoning on behalf of an applicant and would have no part in the cannabis retail operation but may have an agreement to support the gas station.

In an interview after SPR’s application Alexander stated whether a cannabis retail location was  within two or 20 kilometres of the village it wouldn’t make a difference and it was now a legal substance.

When asked why his position differed for the second proposal Alexander said he was concerned about access from Sun Peaks Rd.

“There were questions raised on the first proposal around access that I don’t think have been addressed in this proposal either. And I question whether the process has been level for both.”

Councillor Mario Pozza didn’t agree.

“I would disagree, I think they’ve got a traffic engineer and they’ve looked at the road access and they’ve presented something that’s done professionally.”

O’Toole said in his opinion the applications weren’t treated equally.

“My biggest concern last night was we sent away the first application requiring traffic engineering work,” he said. “I didn’t feel that the second application was given the same level of scrutiny.”

Some of council and staff’s concerns around the SPR application included fuel truck access to the site, buildings being too close to property lines, pedestrian traffic flow through the lot from staff accommodation and the proposed driveway onto Sun Peaks Rd.

O’Toole added he did more research after the first cannabis proposal and was approached by community members.

“I think there’s a level of discussion needed around if this is really something for this community.”

Pozza and councillor Ines Popig agreed cannabis is legal so in their opinions it comes down to  the wants of the community.

“It’s a legal substance and if the public desires it then so be it,” Pozza said.

Alexander suggested temporary use permits be considered but Mayor Al Raine, who attended the meeting via phone, expressed concern. Raine said if people go to the trouble and expense of applying, opening and operating the business it shouldn’t be something that can be taken away with little notice.

The applicants have not yet applied for a provincial license, stating they wished to wait until they had positive support from council before paying the $7,500 application fee and moving forward.

Raine questioned the logistics of showing support without giving full approval before a public hearing. Bremner explained council could collect opinions at a public hearing then give support to the application if the community wished. Then the applicants would apply for a provincial license and the province would refer to the municipality for approval. At that time the municipality could seek input again before giving the application third reading and approval to the province.

This allows two opportunities for community input and the municipality has some control over the provincial application.

While approved rezoning would stay on the property title if resold, any new owner would have to reapply for the provincial cannabis license allowing the municipality to review future applicants.