Kamloops council has approved an application to open a cannabis store in a Valleyview strip mall, despite the objection of a nearby business owner.
Kamloops Dance Academy owner Sandi Lewis and multiple dance studio parents opposed the application on the grounds the business serves children, as do schools, near which cannabis shops are prohibited.
Lewis described to city council uncertainty about the impacts of private stores in the community, despite having visited the government store in Sahali.
“I’m looking out for the children,” she said. “I’m looking out for myself.”
The applicant, Michael Koehn, co-founded the Welcome Back Clinic downtown and owns the CannSolve Clinic, a medical cannabis centre in Sahali. He told KTW he plans to move that centre to Valleyview alongside the cannabis store at 2121 East Trans-Canada Hwy.
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He sympathized with concerns of the dance studio owner and pledged to be a good neighbour
In a letter to council, Lewis noted city regulations restrict cannabis stores from being within 150 metres if a school. Lewis said her studio serves more than 300 students, primarily young children.
“I don’t feel that my facility is any different from an elementary school,” Lewis wrote, noting she would neither want a liquor store beside the studio.
Despite her opposition, council voted unanimously to approve the application, with Coun. Denis Walsh recusing himself due to a conflict of interest as he is pursuing opening a cannabis store downtown.
Coun. Kathy Sinclair called Koehn a “person of integrity” in the community, while Coun. Mike O’Reilly said the city should not set up rules and then change its mind.
“It’s not our job to be moving the goal posts,” he said.
Mayor Ken Christian said he supported the application because the applicant clearly intended to be a good neighbour and the city has recourse through its good neighbour agreement to hold them to account.
Christian said it would be more harmful to have a fast-food restaurant next door to the dance studio than a cannabis store and that it would provide parents an opportunity to discuss cannabis, which is now legal.
He added that fewer empty storefonts would help combat the issue of vagrancy in the community.
“I am going to support this application and I wish them every success,” Christian said.
City of Kamloops property use inspector Dave Jones said the city cited P-3 properties specifically in its zoning bylaw in order to prevent confusion over what constitutes a “school.” The proposed location is in a Valleyview strip mall, zoned C-5 shopping centre commercial.
Jones said stigma continues around negative impacts of cannabis stores, but noted regulations are in place to prevent issues. He said provincial rules limiting advertising. Additionally, the city ties business licences to a good neighbour agreement. =
This was the 16th application to come before city council, with 14 previously approved at the municipal level. Council denied its first cannabis store application last month at 6-685 Tranquille Rd. on the North Shore, following opposition from the Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Metis organization, which raised concerns about impacts on clientele (youth and residential school survivors), crime in the area and parking.