Coun. Jake Kimberley was the only member of Penticton city council to speak out in favour of banning retail cannabis stores from the downtown core. The policy comes before council for a vote Dec. 4. Steve Kidd/Western News

Cannabis policy gets council endorsement

Public will have chance for input on Dec. 18

Penticton city council has moved the new cannabis retail stores policy on to a public hearing on Dec. 18, endorsing an option that will see the stores excluded from establishing on Main or Front Street.

That was one of the main concerns of council when the policy was introduced to council on Nov. 20, with some members asking for an option not to have an exclusion zone.

Related:Council concerned about blocking cannabis retail from Main Street

City staff gave them that option, but the council decided go ahead with the exclusion zone, at least until the public has been heard from.

Planning manager Blake Laven presented a number of arguments in favour of excluding stores from the city core, starting by noting that this area is considered the highest retail use in Penticton.

He also pointed out the required window coverings and restrictions on signage — not appealing to minors or promoting cannabis intoxication — might lead to less than attractive storefronts in the area. Another factor, Laven said, is the alternative use Main and Front Streets see throughout the year, being the location for parades, sporting events and the ongoing Farmers and Community markets from spring through fall. It’s also a decision the city won’t be able to go back on, Laven said.

“Once a store is permitted to be in that location it is not like we can decide we are not comfortable with it anymore and get them to move,” said Laven.

Coun. Julius Bloomfield, spoke against creating an exclusion zone, continuing his stated opposition to putting restrictions on businesses.

“I’m not in favour of putting a ban on any (cannabis) stores on Main Street. I just can’t accept that,” said Bloomfield. Coun. Campbell Watt was also concerned about barring the stores, feeling that market forces would, in time, “weed out” problem stores and the city should be more concerned about where cannabis is consumed than where it is sold. But he admitted he agreed with both sides.

“I don’t necessarily want one across the street from the new YES (Youth Centre) Project. Further up the street, we have Penticton Secondary,” said Watt adding that the ban could be lifted if the cannabis stores proved to be benign. “I believe it is easier to open the door than to close it.”

“I see no downside to proceeding cautiously,” said Coun. Katie Robinson, who moved the zoning option that would block the stores from the city core. Council also approved an update to the current smoking regulations bylaw to include a prohibition on the smoking and vaping of cannabis products in all public areas in Penticton.

Related:High cost to setting up a retail cannabis store

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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