Controversial plans for a pot shop in West Kelowna have been forwarded to a public hearing in a 4-1 vote Tuesday by city council.
The government-owned cannabis retailer hopes to win permission for the store in the Westbank Towne Centre mall, near the existing government-owned liquor store.
Its submission to the city came after council’s previously specified application window had closed, but it was accepted nonetheless for processing. Council has heard the store would provide 20 jobs and serve as a regional headquarters for BC Cannabis.
Council has already approved five privately owned pot shops, the limit that was set under a now-abandoned policy.
Coun. Jason Zilkie, who had voted against accepting the BC Cannabis application, voted in favour Tuesday of sending the proposal to a public hearing. He said the zoning matter was a “different question” than the original decision whether to accept the application.
Coun. Carol Zanon, who had also previously voted not to accept the application, voted to send it to a public hearing.
“I still regard it as the fruit of the poison tree,” Zanon said. “It’s totally unfair to the businesses that did apply under the rules we had set . . . but let’s see what the public has to say.”
For his part, Coun. Doug Findlater voted against sending the application to a public hearing, reaffirming his earlier position the city should not even have accepted the submission after the specified intake period had ended.
“I think five pot shops is too many, and now we may go to six,” Findlater said. “I don’t want to see us overrun by these things.
“It looks crappy, quite frankly. We heard that before when we had all the illegal ones. Granted, these are a little more upscale, but it really doesn’t present a very good image to certain parts of the public.
“This is a johnny-come-lately one that kind of jumped out after the process,” Findlater said, adding the previously approved private store operators would have already put a lot of money and planning into their operations without factoring in possible competition from the government-owned pot retailer.
“I don’t think having the government jump in with this afterwards is very fair,” Findlater said.
Voting in favour of sending the matter to a public hearing were Zanon, Zilkie, and councillors Jason Friesen and Rick de Jong. Findlater was opposed and Mayor Gord Milsom was absent.