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West Vancouver gives green light to first two cannabis shops

Two marijuana shops - one in Ambleside and one in Horseshoe Bay - will be the first into the budding retail cannabis business in West Vancouver
Happy Isle HB pic
A design drawing shows what the proposed Happy Isle Cannabis store in Horseshoe Bay will look like.

Three years after recreational marijuana became legal in Canada, the District of West Vancouver has inhaled for the first time and approved its first two cannabis shops, rolling with a trend that has already seen eight cannabis shops approved in the neighbouring City and District of North Vancouver.

The two stores approved include Happy Isle Cannabis in Horseshoe Bay, run by owners who already operate a pot shop of the same name on Bowen Island, and Avenue Cannabis at 1453 Bellevue Avenue in Ambleside, which has branded itself as a high-end boutique shop catering to baby boomers.

Members of West Vancouver council approved the district’s first marijuana retail businesses Tuesday under temporary use permits that will allow the shops to operate for an initial three-year period.

Council voted to approve the two marijuana retail shops following a lengthy public meeting Tuesday, at which ten would-be pot shop owners made presentations and members of the public weighed in on the merits of their competing proposals.

Avenue Cannabis at 1453 Bellevue Ave. jockeyed to the top spot in the sought-after business area of Ambleside, where five other proposals had also sought to open retail cannabis stores.

The store will be located in a 1,100-square-foot ground floor commercial unit of a three-storey mixed-used building and will be run by three local business owners – Shannon Walker, Scott Walker and Tim Webb – who also own the commercial building.

Webb told council they plan to provide “a boutique-like shopping experience” designed for baby boomers and seniors, including a plan for seniors-only shopping times.

Products will be selected with an older demographic in mind, said Webb. “We’re not building a skateboard store here,” he told council.

Webb added as owner-managers of the building, they will be on site to deal with any issues.

The other store approved, Happy Isle Cannabis, will be going into a 620-square-foot ground-floor space at 6609 Royal Avenue in Horseshoe Bay. Glenn Cormier and David Bellringer are the partners in that business, and currently operates a cannabis store by the same name on Bowen Island.

“We're not a chain. We're not a large corporation,” said Cormier.

“We’re simply looking to replicate in Horseshoe Bay, what we did on Bowen Island, which was to introduce a professionally-run inclusive boutique cannabis retail store into a small, tight-knit community, while limiting the impact of residents,” said Cormier.

Council rejected eight other applications.

Discussion among council members on the proposals Tuesday night was relatively brief.

Councillor Marcus Wong said he was looking for proposals that would “hit it out of the park, really demonstrating to the community that non-medical cannabis is something that can be a part of our community and can be managed safely and sold in a safe manner.”

Wong said when council reviews the temporary use permits in three years’ time “I want to make sure that the community feels comfortable.”

Earlier this year, council adopted a policy allowing for a maximum of four cannabis stores to open, including one in each of the district’s primary commercial areas, including Ambleside, Dundarave, Horseshoe Bay and the Park Royal/Lions Gate Bridge area.

When it came time to choose, however, both Coun. Bill Soprovich and Mayor Mary-Ann Booth suggested allowing more than one store in some areas.

Soprovich first proposed approving a second store – Weather Cannabis – in Horseshoe Bay.

“I looked at their profile, the business case, the amount of work that they've done to go ahead, and to look at this in a very serious way. They're local people with local initiatives,” said Soprovich.

His motion failed to get a seconder, however.

Booth also proposed considering a second store in Ambleside – Nimbus at 1519 Clyde Ave. – saying she was impressed with their inclusion of an Indigenous shareholder, their commitment to reconciliation, to social benefits and the diversity of their ownership.

Coun. Nora Gambioli said she was also impressed with the application.

“But I don't agree that we should have two locations in Ambleside,” she said. “So I won't be supporting this.”

Booth also proposed supporting a third store in the Park Royal area, saying residents of that area won’t have easy access to a cannabis store.

But that also failed to win support from the rest of council.

In answer to questions raised by council, staff said applications turned down by council can’t come back with the same proposal in the same location for a year, but can reapply in a different location.