The proponent for a new cannabis shop looking to open on Port Moody’s Clarke Street says he’s mystified why city council abruptly rescinded its third reading of the necessary bylaw amendments that would allow that to happen.
But Mayor Rob Vagramov said the city only wants to make sure everything about the approval process is on the up and up.
Tuesday, council decided to take another look at the application for Happy Hippie at 2343 Clarke St., to be run by local pub proprietor Rylie Abelman, as well as a proposal by Cannoe for a shop on St. John Street that it had rejected last June. Both will go through public hearings again — separately this time — before council decides how to proceed.
Vagramov said some concerns had been raised about council’s consideration of the two applications together. He said they had also received some new information, but he didn’t specify what that was.
Vagramov said the decision to rewind council’s previous decision was done “out of an abundance of caution.”
Abelman said he only found out his application was in peril late Tuesday afternoon, even though the report recommending council take another look was dated July 31.
“I was really caught off guard,” he told The Tri-City News. “I’m not sure what happened.”
After council granted third reading to the bylaw amendments that would pave the way for Abelman’s new venture, he admitted he was surprised, as he hadn’t yet cleared the “fit and proper” vetting of his bid’s financial and personal backgrounds by the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. It’s still outstanding.
But councillors said at the time they liked his local roots, independence and longstanding track record of community involvement with organizations like Port Moody Rotary, Share, and the city’s fire department. Cannoe, on the other hand, includes backing from the founders of Roots clothing company and Aldo Group, a Montreal-based shoes and accessories retailer with shops around the world.
Councillors were also wary of creating a kind of “cannabis row” on St. Johns Street as the busy thoroughfare already has a cannabis shop, Kiaro, that opened last spring a few blocks west of Cannoe’s proposed location. Another shop, Burb, recently opened in Suterbrook Village, at the corner of Barnet Highway and Ioco Road.
Abelman said none of those factors have changed.
“They were in favour of the little guy, and now they’ve turtled and put their tails between their legs,” he said of council's reversal, adding he’s received nothing but positive feedback and encouragement from the community about his proposed shop in the city’s historic core.
Vagramov said the procedural reboot could actually end up being good news for cannabis consumers in the city.
“There’s certainly the possibility that, out of the coming process, council may end up approving both to move forward,” he said.
But staying the course or rejecting both applications could also be outcomes, he added.