A tie vote by Whitehorse city council has defeated a proposed zoning change that would allow a cannabis shop at 2220 Second Ave.
While three council members voted in favour of the rezoning at the Oct. 11 council meeting for the former Marble Slab ice cream shop, another three voted against the proposal, thus defeating the zoning. Mayor Laura Cabott was joined by councillors Kirk Cameron and Dan Boyd voting in favour while councillors Jocelyn Curteanu, Michelle Friesen and Mellisa Murray voted against. Any tie vote by council is automatically defeated.
Coun. Ted Laking has declared a conflict with the issue, stepping out of council meetings when the issue has come up.
Council voted to move the matter to second reading, before the tie vote that defeated it.
The vote came following a public hearing report highlighting input that came in on the proposed rezoning. The hearing saw eight presentations made directly to council along with another 52 written submissions.
Along with proponents Jordan Stackhouse and Daniel Schneider outlining their plans for the cannabis retail space, other in-person delegates stated their opposition to the location, with many highlighting concerns about the close proximity to the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre (ILC), daycares and parks.
Of the 52 written submissions, 33 indicated support for the store to open with the remaining 19 stating opposition or concerns.
Stackhouse and Schneider explained it was only after signing the five-year lease for the retail space that they learned the building did not comply with the 150-metre buffer required for schools, given the close proximity of the Individual Learning Centre (ILC) at NVD Place at Ogilvie Street and Fourth Avenue. The ILC offers an alternative high school program to youth ages 16 to 21 and is defined as a secondary school under the Education Act.
It was noted in the administrative report the proponents had issues with the inaccuracy of a cannabis buffer map published by the city showing the school’s location as being outside of the school buffer area. The city has since revised its map, but administration said the city website makes it clear the map is for reference only and potential applicants should get in touch with permitting authorities to make sure they have accurate information.
Many opposed to the rezoning argued having a cannabis shop close to a school normalizes and increases exposure of cannabis use and could have a negative impact on students.
Many of those who wrote in favour submitted similarly worded letters, stating support and highlighting the site as “a suitable location in a core commercial area of downtown.”
Curteanu said she doesn’t believe the use would be compatible with the neighbourhood given that it is in an area frequented by youth, near the school and a park. She noted she would rather err on the side of caution on the matter. Others also pointed to comments from the public made at the public hearing.
“It does cause concerns for me and hesitancy on this,” Murray said.
Meanwhile, Cameron argued moving ahead with the rezoning would put the matter of the appropriate distance from schools back in the hands of the regulators as the proponents would have to get a license if the zoning went ahead.
Others argued the method of measuring the distance from the school was flawed and noted the Department of Education had not expressed any major concerns with the proposal.
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