By ROY WOOD
Over the objections of one councillor fearful of sending an anti-business signal, Osoyoos council is moving forward with its site-specific zoning bylaw for cannabis retailing in the town.
In a 4-1 vote, council directed staff to come to the September 4 meeting with a zoning bylaw amendment and a proposed policy. Applicants for the right to sell pot in Osoyoos will be required to appear before council and go through a public hearing.
Councillor Mike Campol objected, suggesting it is inappropriate to treat cannabis sales differently from other types of business. He said council is overcomplicating the process to the possible detriment of potential retailers. “I’m quite frustrated going to site-specific,” he said. “It’s an example of not being open for business.”
Mayor Sue McKortoff disagreed, saying, “I think we have done a really good job of being open for business in a positive way.”
She added that council is being appropriately cautious in figuring out how to handle the legal sale of marijuana and the intention is to make sure they get it right and “don’t have to backtrack.”
One other controversial aspect of the draft policy presented by planning director Gina MacKay was a proposal to consider the possible impact on other businesses of a cannabis store on downtown Main Street.
Councillor Jim King said he would like to see the bylaw disallow pot stores anywhere on Main Street between Tim Horton’s and the Watermark.
Councillor CJ Rhodes took an opposite view, suggesting that special consideration for Main Street businesses be taken out of the policy altogether. Rhodes carried the day and no such special consideration will be part of the town policy.
MacKay will bring back to council on September 4 a policy that includes “general guidelines to assist in consideration of applications to re-zone a property in order to accommodate a cannabis retail sales outlet.” The considerations will include:
Proximity to Osoyoos Elementary School;
Proximity to day care centres and the like;
Proximity to and impact on residential areas;
Access, egress and parking;
Visibility from tourist routes; and
Whether potential sampling areas contravene other bylaws.
Although council has indicated that it won’t be rushed into decisions, the possession and sale of recreational cannabis will become legal in Canada on October 17.