Thursday, 13 September 2018 03:57

Swift Current City council amends zoning bylaw on Sept. 10 for cannabis retail stores after public hearing in August

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The City of Swift Current has made an amendment to the zoning bylaw that will control the location of cannabis retail stores in the city after concerns were raised at a recent public hearing.

Councillors approved the amended bill during a regular council meeting, Sept. 10.
“It will prove that public hearings aren't just for show,” Deputy Mayor Ryan Plewis said. “It eventually helped in this case to justify us putting in a change to the bill.”
The public hearing took place during a previous council meeting in August. The hearing was scheduled as part of the process to amend the City's zoning bylaws to clearly delineate the areas where cannabis retail stores and production facilities will be allowed to operate.
The joint presentation at that hearing by the Swift Current Community Youth Initiative (operating as The Center) and the East Side Church of God, the owner/lessor of the property from which The Center operates, highlighted concerns about the potential location of a cannabis retail store in close proximity to the youth facility.
City administration previously presented a report to council that proposed amendments to the zoning bylaws to limit the location of retail cannabis stores to the downtown core and cannabis production operations to the industrial districts.
The additional amendment to the bylaw after the public hearing included cannabis retail stores as a discretionary use in the downtown district. There are extra review measures for any business activity listed as a discretionary use.
All property owners within 75 metres of the proposed activity must be notified of the application, a public hearing must take place for the development and it must be approved by council. Other downtown business activities such as bars and lounges are already listed as a discretionary use.
“It seems like this is a nice compromise to what was being asked,” Councillor Ron Toles said. “Not only cannabis, but anything else that will be effective of The Centre in that part of town will have to come to council as a discretionary use.”
According to City General Manager for Planning and Development Michael Ruus the public hearing submission was reviewed by City administration and additional consultation took place with the two parties.
“We reached out to them to have a quick discussion on what would be a reasonable compromise so that we can on the one hand welcome new businesses that are wanting to invest in the community and bring new customers in from the entire region, while also protecting these groups' investment in The Centre downtown,” he said after the meeting.
He noted that the discretionary use designation for a cannabis retail store is a useful means for the City to evaluate activities before it is allowed in an area that is already zoned for such businesses.
“Basically what this tool does is allow council to have discretion over the allowance of that particular use and any other uses listed under discretionary uses under the zoning bylaw,” he said. “Ultimately it looked like cannabis retail was similar in many ways to some of the other uses that are also listed as discretionary in the downtown, such as bars and lounges. So council felt, as you heard tonight from council, that the right decision moving forward was to proceed in a similar manner.”
During the public hearing presentation the two organizations suggested the implementation of a buffer zone of 100 to 300 metres to separate a cannabis store from activities such as a youth or child-care facility. Ruus felt such a buffer zone will not be practical in downtown Swift Current.
“That was a discussion item early on when we were initially doing research over or about this entire topic,” he said. “However, it's a tool that doesn't necessarily scale well to a community of our size, given our mix of uses throughout the entire city. That would make things difficult for any business owners that were wanting to locate into the community. So we wanted to try and come up with a solution where it would be a little more transparent and these businesses would have a better foot forward to make their initial investment.”
The City has already received a development permit application for a cannabis retail store from Dreamweaver Cannabis Products Inc. The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has issued 51 cannabis retail store permits in the province, and two permits were allocated to Swift Current.
Dreamweaver Cannabis Products Inc. is proposing to open a cannabis retail store at 106 Central Avenue North. Councillors approved a motion at the Sept. 10 meeting to give notice of council's intention to consider this discretionary use application.
A public notice will be mailed to all property owners within a 75-metre radius of the proposed site for this store and this notice will also be advertised in a local newspaper and posted on the City's website.
A public hearing will take place at the Sept. 28 council meeting and councillors will make their final decision on this application at the Oct. 9 council meeting.

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Matthew Liebenberg


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