After participating in dozens of public hearings over the years, I have observed that Coquitlam council routinely gives unanimous approval to proposals in the face of strong opposition from residents.
This makes these forums more symbolic than impactful when it comes to decisions facing our local leaders.
An example is the public hearing on April 25. The applicant was the Local Leaf Cannabis retail shop at 2957 Glen Dr. Residents from the surrounding area came out in force with concerns about the safety of children and youth, and rising crime related to the new enterprise.
Residents opposed (verbally and in writing) the proposed location, a residential condo tower that is home to hundreds of young families. This location also happens to be the former office of our family doctor. Is anyone else concerned that we’re losing doctors and gaining pot shops in our city? I’ll shelve that topic for another time.
Getting back to the hearing, the Local Leaf Cannabis applicant seemed well-prepared to respond to the aforementioned concerns. She assured council that the operator had an impeccable track record, with “zero complaints.” She assured council there would be aroma mitigation, ID checks at the door, and surveillance by a provincial regulator. She described anecdotally how the presence of Local Leaf Cannabis would lower crime and drive out illicit distribution of cannabis in the community. Council approved the application unanimously.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Retail cannabis is a new concept for our city. One speaker at the hearing on April 25 noted that we should have a “high bar” for the approval of first establishments in Coquitlam.
Although residents assume that council and staff have performed the necessary due diligence regarding these issues before they get to a public hearing, a recent Tri-City News story indicates that Local Leaf Cannabis was fined for selling to a minor in Terrace. three months prior to the public hearing. Why did this material fact emerge one week after the public hearing? Can Coquitlam city council claim that an informed decision was made regarding this approval? What other details might have been omitted from this application?
I’m unclear about the rights and obligations of the parties in this context. However, I believe that Coquitlam residents expect applicants and decision makers to act in good faith when approving the location of a new business in Coquitlam. I suggest that council reopen this file for an appropriate public vetting.
Ben Craig, Coquitlam