A public hearing for land use bylaw amendments related to cannabis retail stores in Red Deer was held Monday during City council’s regular meeting.
Bylaw 3357/L-2018 – which dealt primarily with definitions – passed second and third readings unanimously by council.
Bylaw 3357/P-2018 – which deals with particulars including separation distances between cannabis retailers and other facilities – was discussed but a tabling motion was introduced for administration to explore options and planning implications connected to changing various amendments within that bylaw.
These included the proposal to have cannabis stores 100m from a drinking establishment, microbrewery or liquor, beer and/or wine sales businesses, for example.
Ultimately, however, there could be other suggestions in administration’s report about distances.
“We are giving direction to administration to explore amendments,” said Mayor Tara Veer, adding a planning report would be returned to council in four weeks.
Administration will come back with a planning report and amendments at that point would be formalized and then the bylaw could move forward.
At this point, further clarity and understanding is needed, Veer said.
Meanwhile, the public hearing held Monday evening came after council approved first reading of the proposed land use bylaw amendment March 5th.
At that time, council also considered where cannabis stores are to be located as well as the minimum distance between recreational cannabis retail stores and liquor stores, schools, daycares, health and recreation facilities.
Following that meeting, an online survey was launched to garner feedback from the public.
In total, 1,474 people responded.
According to council notes, survey results generally support a conservative approach to the proposed bylaws and as the need arises, future land use bylaw amendments can be considered.
When asked what their greatest interest of concern was regarding legalization, 45% of survey respondents said that location of the retail stores was their main concern and 17% said they were interested in businesses’ opportunities related to cannabis.
Overall, 65% favoured strip malls on arterial roadways as the best location for cannabis retail stores.
Other areas with a high percentage of interest included major shopping centres such as South Pointe Common (49%); downtown (45%); shopping malls (31%) and neighbourhood retail areas (30%).
About 89% of respondents also felt that cannabis stores should be a minimum of 100m or greater from school sites or health facilities.
The Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission (AGLC) began carrying out all licensing, oversight and compliance functions on behalf of the Province and started processing applications for cannabis retailers.
To that end, bylaws in Red Deer will require applicants as part of their development permit applications to provide evidence of their eligibility through AGLC as a qualified cannabis retailer, according to council notes.
Concerns raised during the public hearing focused primarily on the distances suggested, such as the initial 300m between cannabis retailers and other businesses and facilities in the City.
Some also pointed out that restrictions should be limited on where these retailers be allowed to set up shop in favour of keeping the local cannabis retail environment as equitable and with the highest potential for success as possible.
At the end of the meeting, councillors were comfortable with re-visiting the potential amendments via the report in four weeks’ time.
“We are on new ground, so certainly this process isn’t easy but it’s important that we engage with our community which we did with the online survey, and from that we heard from our citizens tonight,” said Coun. Dianne Wyntjes.
“I think it’s wise to have the report come back to council to continue the engagement with our citizens listening, and hopefully we will land in good a spot for our city’s future,” she said.
Coun. Ken Johnston agreed.
“What is fair, what is equitable, what is entrepreneurial, what is therapeutic, and what does the future hold relative to all of those things? I look forward to administration’s report and continuing the debate that puts us on the best course possible.”