City of North Van OKs 2 pot shops, rejects 4 others

The City of North Vancouver has given the green light to two recreational cannabis shops and stubbed out four others.

In September 2018, council set some basic parametres for where pot shops could operate – two each in Upper and Lower Lonsdale, and one each on the eastern and western borders of the city, not closer than 100 metres from public schools or community centres. All of the proposed shops met those criteria, but, when it came to individual rezonings, only two made the cut.

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Over two nights of public hearings held last week, council approved applications for a BC Cannabis Store at the northeast corner of Park & Tilford, and 1st Cannabis at 221 West First St., and rejected applications from The Herb Co. at 1717 Lonsdale Ave., Lonsdale Cannabis Co. at 315 Lonsdale Ave., City Cannabis at 725 West 14th St. and a second BC Cannabis Store at 1200 Lonsdale.

The Park & Tilford BC Cannabis store stoked little controversy for council, drawing no complaints or opponents at the public hearing.

“The store looks quite beautiful actually and it will be a good addition to Brooksbank,” Coun. Holly Back said. “I think your store will fit in just fine.”

But those eager to buy some bud at the government owned store will have to wait at least until the fall of 2020 as the proposal is for an entirely new 3,930-square-foot bricks-and-mortar shop to be constructed.

While there was some local opposition to the 1st Cannabis proposal from Brian and Allan Riedlinger, who are also co-owners of Sailor Hagar’s pub and liquor store, including its proximity to Foundry North Shore youth services centre and the pub, council agreed it was a suitable location. Council members noted neither Foundry’s leadership nor Vancouver Coastal Health took a position on the Riedlingers’ application.

“I recognize the concern but I think, by having these stores, we’re actually going to have more control. That’s my hope,” Coun. Tony Valente said.

1st Cannabis will be a 150-square-foot cannabis shop in the same building as the liquor store but will be completely walled off from booze sales and have a separate entrance.

Co-owner Brian Riedlinger said he is still waiting on his licence from the province, and, pending approval of building permits and fourth reading of the rezoning bylaw, the store could open in September.

Although there were complaints from nearby residents in apartments on West 17th Street about parking, traffic and potential smells, it was the provincial and federal requirement to have opaque or blacked out windows that led council to reject The Herb Co. at 1717 Lonsdale Ave.

“It’s a significant priority for myself and our council to transform Lonsdale into a great high street from bottom to top and animating that street is key to that. Nothing against this particular business, but in terms of this land use on this street, it doesn’t conform to what we want to be achieving when it’s right on the frontage of the street,” Mayor Linda Buchanan said.

Buchanan added it seems counter-intuitive to legalize a product but then hide it from view, and said she would be writing to the province and federal government to make the case for quashing that regulation.

“That in itself sends the message that something really not quite right is happening behind it. And I actually think from a security point of view, from a gendered perspective, lots of women I speak to don’t necessarily want to … go into a building that’s covered up where they can’t see out and others can’t see in.”

The proposed BC Cannabis store at 1200 Lonsdale went down to defeat for similar reasons, although council also worried about the amount of traffic the store would generate combined several large-scale construction projects set to begin nearby.

City Cannabis’s proposal for 725 West 14th was panned by neighbours and business owners in the area. The proposal for Lonsdale Cannabis Co. at 315 Lonsdale Ave. drew similar pushback from residents, particularly those who live in the condos above. Both were rejected.

“We have heard really loud and clear from the community that these are their homes, that they don’t feel comfortable with this type of land use within the commercial units that are part of their homes,” Buchanan said, adding that the city would likely have to revisit the rules it set for cannabis shops.

When the city began accepting pot shop applications on a first-come, first-serve basis in 2018, they hit their limit of six within minutes. The remainder were put on a waiting list, with the understanding that they would be invited to apply if the first group of applicants weren’t successful, said spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley.

“Currently, we can process four new applications for different locations in the City from the waitlist. We will contact those businesses soon to see if they are still interested in applying; if they are not, we will contact the next business on the list.

“Once the list has been exhausted, we will accept applications on a first come, first served basis (per the city’s policy),” she said.

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