CORRECTION: A previous version of this article omitted that prior to council considering the proposed zoning amendment bylaw, councillor Trevor Bolin declared himself to be in conflict of interest due to his real estate holdings, and excused himself from the debate and vote.
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A proposed zoning amendment bylaw that would dictate which properties in Fort St. John would be allowed to be home to a cannabis retail location passed first two readings at today’s Council meeting – albeit with some amendments.
City planners Ashley Murphy and Renee Jamurat gave a presentation at a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this afternoon about the proposed bylaw, which would have allowed cannabis retail operations in all properties zoned C2, C3, and C4. Properties located within 200 metres of schools, 100 metres from parks, and 100 metres from other cannabis retail locations would not be permitted to operate a cannabis store.
In their report, the planners stated that residents were largely opposed to cannabis retail being located any closer than 200 metres from a school, but were more split on the proposed distance from properties zoned as parks. A slim majority favoured a 200-metre setback from parks, while 48 percent were in favour of a buffer zone of 100 metres or less.
“The results indicated that based on a required 200 metre setback from schools, an additional 200 metre setback from parks would prove to limit the number of potential commercial properties that could support such a use to 487, wherein a 200 metre setback from schools coupled with a 100 metre setback from parks would result in 567 commercial properties being potentially able to support such a use, or a difference of 80 properties,” stated Murphy in her report. She added that neither scenario took in to account the additional proposed 100 metre required setback from other cannabis retail locations.
Other stakeholders also weighed in, with the RCMP telling the City it preferred cannabis stores be located in the City’s downtown core, while School District #60 said in an email that it preferred cannabis operations to be located on C4 properties – the majority of which are located near the Alaska Highway. When asked, mayor Lori Ackerman stated that the RCMP did not include any reasoning in their preference for cannabis retail to be confined to the downtown core.
Prior to the bylaw being brought forward to Council during the regular meeting, councillor Trevor Bolin declared himself to be potentially in conflict of interest due to his real estate holdings, and excused himself from Council Chambers prior to the bylaw being tabled.
Mayor Ackerman also said that in speaking with Chamber of Commerce president Nelson Stowe, that he expressed a concern with the proposed setback between individual retail locations. She explained that the reasoning behind Stowe’s opposition was due because the City does not regulate the distance between other retail operations, giving an example of shoe stores.
Councillors voted in favour of amending the bylaw to limit cannabis retail locations to zoned C2 downtown commercial properties, and eliminating the minimum distance from other cannabis locations, while keeping the 200 metre setback from schools and 100 metre setback from parks.
The City will be holding a public meeting to hear feedback from residents on July 23rd at 6:00 p.m.