Port Moody to consider five cannabis shops in first year

Port Moody will consider a maximum of five cannabis stores in the first 12 months — once amendments to the city’s zoning and business licensing bylaws are adopted — after council approved a new corporate policy at its meeting Tuesday.

But Port Moody’s manager of building, bylaw and licensing, Robyn MacLeod, said seven properties have already been secured in the city for possible cannabis retailers and staff has received more than 20 inquiries from potential operators of such shops. 

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The new policy establishes guidelines for council when it considers rezoning applications for cannabis shops as well as criteria operators will have to meet to secure a business licence. Some of those include being located on a property zoned for commercial retail use that is at least 75 metres from “sensitive use” sites such as schools, playgrounds and community centres.

Policy planner Jess Daniels told council the buffer distance would be measured “as the crow flies” from the shop’s front door because that’s the way it’s being done in neighbouring cities, including New Westminster. She said other methods suggested by councillors such as walking distance would be too complicated because pedestrians can use different routes.

But Coun. Diana Dilworth said the 75-m buffer, which was endorsed by council’s committee of the whole Feb. 26, isn’t enough. She said the distance allowed by the city between liquor outlets is already much larger and Port Moody residents had expressed a desire for big buffer zones around cannabis shops during public consultation earlier this year. That process had resulted in an initial staff recommendation for a 200-m buffer to sensitive uses and a 500-m buffer between the outlets themselves.

“We went through a pretty significant public consultation process and, for the most part, we’re dismissing their desires,” said Dilworth, who was the only councillor present at Tuesday’s meeting to vote against the new corporate policy.

But Coun. Hunter Madsen said the 75-m distance will give retailers some options when locating their shops. MacLeod said all seven properties already secured in the city for cannabis shops meet the new buffer criteria.

Daniels said limiting rezoning applications to five in the first year gives council the opportunity to review all them together with consideration to the most suitable land uses in the city. She recommended a deadline of Sept. 30 be imposed for the city to receive referrals of licences for potential operators from the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, and an Oct. 1 deadline for rezoning applications.

“We thought this was the most fair process,” Daniels said, adding the city could consider additional applications for cannabis shops after the initial 12-month period expires.

Council also gave three readings to an amendment to its business licensing bylaw that would require cannabis shop operators post signs inside informing customers about Port Moody’s smoking restrictions, provide proof of having a monitored security and fire alarm system, as well as video surveillance, and have a visually appealing storefront, adequate lighting and design elements to help prevent crime.

An amendment to Port Moody’s zoning bylaw to define what a cannabis retail shop is also received second reading and was referred to a public hearing to be held May 14.

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