By ROY WOOD
Members of the public will have one final chance on October 1 to make their views known to Osoyoos council on the retail sale of cannabis in the town.
Council gave initial approval on Tuesday to the “site specific” zoning bylaw, which will require each applicant who wants to open a pot store to appear before council.
A public hearing on the bylaw is scheduled for October 1 at 7 pm at the Sonora Centre. Some time after the hearing, council will likely pass final reading and adoption of the bylaw.
Following final approval of a bylaw, details of the business licensing for cannabis stores will need to be worked out and approved. The stickiest issues there will be how much such a licence will cost. There have been concerns expressed that cannabis retailing will bring extra costs to local government and suggestions that hefty business licence prices might help mitigate them.
Given the number of steps remaining, it seems highly unlikely that the town will be prepared to accommodate marijuana retail stores ahead of the October 17 legalization of marijuana possession and sale in Canada.
Along with the bylaw, to which council gave first and second reading on Monday, came a town policy outlining the issues that council may weigh when it considers applications for “site specific” zoning from would-be cannabis retailers.
According to a report to council from planning director Gina MacKay, “Through adoption of this policy staff will be able to provide clear direction to applicants and applicants will be able to mitigate or address issues relating to the identified conditions.
“In turn, applicants are assured that proposals for retail cannabis sales are reviewed on the same criteria and conditions.”
The “rezoning considerations” 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.
The zoning bylaw was approved by a four-to-one margin, with Councillor Mike Campol voting against. He has argued against the site-specific approach, characterizing it as “an example of not being open for business.”
Cannabis retailers must also have a licence from the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. According to MacKay’s report, “The provincial licensing process coupled with the site-specific zoning provision will allow for a one-step process for consideration of cannabis sales in the town.”
A unique aspect of the Osoyoos approach to marijuana retailing is that only private outlets will be approved; government pot stores are not permitted.