Vernon council has set a limit of how many cannabis retail stores it will allow in its downtown core.
Coun. Akbal Mund put forward a notice of motion to limit the number of stores in the downtown business improvement area (BIA) to six, and a moratorium will be placed on downtown applications which will last 12 months and undergo a review.
The motion was passed by a margin of 5-1 with Coun. Dalvir Nahal in opposition, and Coun. Kelly Fehr absent from the regular meeting of council.
“If we don’t put a limit on it, this could get out of control very quickly,” said Mund. “I’m not against pot shops, not at all. So far, the applications are right across the town, and I’m not against a total limit, but I am against having 20 pot shops downtown which could easily happen. Let’s not sit around and wait and do something now.”
Council has approved 10 such applications since March, including one at its regular meeting on Tuesday at the former Royal Canadian Legion site on 31st Avenue bringing the number of applications for downtown to four, and staff told council there are two more applications coming before them for the downtown core which would make six.
Five applications have been made for Vernon’s north end and one is for a property heading out to Okanagan Landing on 25th Avenue.
All applications have been supported by council and have been sent to the province for consideration.
Nahal voted against the motion, saying people have already spent a great deal of money on their applications.
“You can’t restrict without knowing how many have applied,” she said. “We screwed up, we should have done this beforehand. We didn’t and it’s just not fair to start restricting now.”
Administrator Will Pearce chipped in saying council made no such mistake.
“If out of the gates you had said 10 (applications), you would have had a mad rush to province for the first 10, then you would have got the first 10 in the first week. Then what do you do because you don’t know the locations of those first 10?” said Pearce.
“What you said was, when you set up the process, you said we as council have complete authority on cannabis retail shops approval in this municipality, period. Entrepreneurs then take the risk because it’s a lengthy process to get through the province first, then council, and they can’t predict what council says, then it goes back to the province and we don’t know what the province will say.
“You did not make a mistake.”
Mayor Victor Cumming said Mund’s motion is a good one.
“We’ve heard very clearly from the community, don’t load up the downtown with pot shops,” he said. “It’s a good motion to cap it for the community and hold it for a time period, then review it in 12 months.”