City approves first cannabis retail store in Swift Current
The City of Swift Current has approved the development permit application for the first cannabis retail store in the city's downtown area.
Councillors voted in favour of a motion at a regular council meeting on Oct. 9 to approve the application by Dreamweavers Cannabis Products Inc. to develop a cannabis retail store at 106 Central Avenue North.
Some councillors expressed their concern about the manner in which the legalization of cannabis was handled by the federal government, basically leaving it to the different levels of government to figure out how to deal with it.
“I think I've been very clear on this from the very beginning that I'm not totally in favour of the way things were handled from Ottawa down to us, and I make that same consideration now, that the federal level, provincial level and municipal level, we were all kind of caught with our pants down,” Councillor Ron Toles said.
He indicated that he was reluctantly voting in favour of this application, because there is no real reason to municipally oppose it and all the bylaw issues have been addressed.
“I'm not opposed to cannabis retail stores in Swift Current, it's a thing that we have to live with,” he said. “I guess I'm not even opposed to having them in the downtown area. We already have several liquor outlets, legal intoxicating beverages, available in the downtown area.
“I guess the proof will be in the results and we can revisit this another time if we are getting results that we don't like, but as of right now, I can't see a cannabis retail store being any more threat to the public or the property than the liquor retail stores or the bars and things that we have downtown already.”
Councillors Chris Martens and George Bowditch shared the sentiment expressed by Toles about the federal government's top-down approach to the legalization of cannabis. Bowditch added that he will support the motion for a practical reason.
“The people that are going to buy or consume, basically they're going to drive somewhere and get that,” he said. “It that any safer, having them on the road like that? ... People are going to access it, regardless, and if there's a shop in Moose Jaw that's selling it and we don't have one in Swift Current, people are going to go there.”
City administration made a recommendation to council that the development permit application for a cannabis retail store be approved.
City General Manager for Planning and Development Michael Ruus noted that a review of the application was completed and the proposal meets the City's zoning bylaw regulations.
City administration does not have any concerns that the proposed cannabis retail store will create a nuisance and danger to the public, or that it will impede orderly development of surrounding properties.
Councillor Pat Friesen asked if the City has looked at the way other municipalities in the province or elsewhere in the country are dealing with the location of cannabis retail stores.
Ruus noted that their review of any issues included a municipal scan.
“So in this case we take a look at other jurisdictions, other provinces and municipalities within Saskatchewan,” he explained. “In Saskatchewan, the majority of the municipalities all have at least the allowance for retail cannabis stores within the downtown core. So that formed part of our professional opinion in this case.”
The development of a cannabis retail store is a discretionary use in Swift Current that requires approval from City council. As part of the formal procedure for a discretionary use application a public notice was published in a local newspaper and all assessed property owners within a 75metre radius of the proposed development received a letter with information about the application.
A public hearing took place during the Sept. 28 council meeting, where the applicant made a submission in support of the proposal.
There were no other presentations against or in support of the application at the hearing. The City received six written submissions, with one in favour and five objecting to the proposed development.
According to Ruus, the City's review of the application did not provide any reasons for opposing this discretionary use application.
“Based on our zoning bylaw, we would need to make a case that essentially it doesn't meet the zoning regulations, it would impede future development, or cause a health or safety concern,” he said after the meeting. “Based on the research that our team has done internally, the best practices that we have taken a look at industry-wide indicate that a cannabis retail store in the downtown core really does make sense in this case.”
The City does not have any concern that the operation of a cannabis retail store in the downtown business area will have a detrimental impact on the area.
“Really, the downtown masterplan is all about creating a downtown that's the centre of business, entertainment and culture, and I think retail cannabis certainly fits into that no different than liquor stores or pharmacies,” he said. “They're all fairly similar uses from a land use perspective and again, that's how we have to make our decisions.”
The City's approval of this discretionary use application will not include any specific conditions that the applicant will have to adhere to during the operation of the store.
“The retail side of the industry is very heavily regulated, especially in this province,” he said. “The federal government has laid out the framework and the province has laid out their provincial framework. So as far as their actual retail permit goes with the province, they have fairly strict conditions. Where the municipality really fits into the bigger picture is just determining where they're going to be located, which we've done over the last couple of months now.”
The recreational use of cannabis will become legal on Oct. 17.
While the discretionary use application by Dreamweavers Cannabis Products Inc. has been approved, the company will still have to secure a business license to operate in the city and any leasehold improvements will require relevant building permits.
The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has issued permits for two cannabis retail stores in Swift Current. The other successful applicant is Saskatchewan entrepreneur Kevin Tindall of the numbered company 102014474 Saskatchewan Inc.
The City has not yet received a development permit application from him. It will have to follow the same process to receive approval as a discretionary use in the downtown business area.
“At this point, I believe they're still looking to secure a location,” Ruus said. “Once they're ready to proceed with their development permit application, we'll be working with them from start to finish.”