Pitt Meadows has moved one step closer to allowing the city’s first cannabis store.
Residents will get to voice their opinions regarding a possible retail cannabis store at Meadowtown Shopping Centre, following council’s 5-1 vote in support of scheduling a public hearing.
“It’s 2023, times are changing, this is legal, I’ve certainly changed my mind on this topic,” said Coun. Tracy Elke, who supported the motion at a May 30 council meeting.
“I’m hearing from a lot of residents that are saying, ‘Why do we have to leave the community for these products that are safe and legal?”
In November 2022, council passed a pair of motions that allowed Seed and Stone Cannabis Boutique, a private B.C.-based cannabis retailer, to host a public development meeting and inform Pitt Meadows residents about their intentions to open a location in the city.
Following council’s approval, Seed and Stone sent 700 letters to members of the community who lived in close proximity to the planned shop, and held a forum in January — which saw just one member of the public attend.
But new concerns for the proposed development emerged at the May 30 council meeting.
In question period, three residents wrote to council with fears relating to its proximity to a child care facility in the mall.
“Cannabis exhaust causes discomfort to our bodies and is harmful to our bodies,” a Pitt Meadows resident wrote to council. “My children are too young to hold their breaths when I smell it in the air. With a cannabis retail store, it will lead to more cannabis exhaust in the air.”
Seed and Stone, which launched five years ago with a flagship store in Chilliwack, has grown in recent years — opening six more shops across B.C. and three more in the Lower Mainland: Delta, White Rock, and Coquitlam.
In December, the Pitt Meadows economic development advisory committee, a group that advises council on economic developments, praised Seed and Stone’s application.
The cannabis store would increase local job opportunities and direct consumers to a legal marketplace for cannabis, according to the group’s report.
Pitt Meadows zoning bylaws currently prohibit the retail sale of cannabis throughout the city.
However, on March 7, a new policy went into effect that gave the city permission to consider retail cannabis licences on a case-by-case basis.
Specifically, all proposals must follow a set of criteria that includes being located at least 500m from the closest cannabis retail shop, 200m from a school or playground, and separated by places frequented by youth.
The closest park and school to the proposed cannabis store — Somerset Park and Edith McDermott school — are roughly 435 and 600m away as “as the crow flies,” meaning that they are farther away on foot.
Seed and Stone’s application satisfied all of those benchmarks.
After the public meeting in January, Seed and Stone decided to switch locations within the Meadowtown Shopping Centre, relocating from a larger unit to a smaller boutique on the other side of the mall.
Council approved that rezoning application on May 30.
The new proposed location for the retail show is 725 – 19800 Lougheed Highway, which is located farther away (431 metres) from a child care facility in the mall than the original location.
Coun. Alison Evans applauded Seed and Stone for meeting the zoning requirements and said she believes that the time is right for Pitt Meadows to open their first cannabis retail store.
“I don’t think it’s right for our residents to travel outside of the community for something that is legal,” councillor Evans said. “It’s access to a safe, legal market.”
Only Coun. Gwen O’Connell voted against the application.
“I’ve stood firm on how I feel about cannabis operations, I haven’t wavered on that, I can’t support it,” she said.
Councillor Elke suggested that the residents’ concerns in question period about the store came from an unfounded fear that the retail store would be manufacturing cannabis on site.
“I wonder if there was a misunderstanding that this might be a production of exhaust, it’s clearly not, it’s retail.”
A date for a public hearing, which will give residents the chance to provide extra feedback, will be scheduled at a future council meeting.