A cannabis shop could take over the Sapperton storefront currently occupied by the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary’s thrift shop – but not without a public hearing.
New Westminster city councillors agreed at their March 29 meeting to pass two readings of a zoning amendment bylaw that would pave the way for North Root Cannabis to open up at 416 East Columbia St. – the retail unit currently occupied by the hospital auxiliary’s New To You Thrift Shop.
The North Root Cannabis application is proceeding in place of a shop previously considered for 451 East Columbia St. That location, which would have been operated by Herb Co. Cannabis, had scored the highest in the city’s established process for regulating cannabis shops in New Westminster.
But a report from Emilie Adin, the city’s director of development services, notes the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch has notified the city that Herb Co.’s application has been terminated. The report notes the LCRB did not provide a reason, citing privacy considerations, but the applicant has said the termination stems from a missed deadline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adin’s report notes North Root Cannabis was the next-highest-scored applicant in the Sapperton area and recommends council proceed with that application instead.
The report points out Herb Co. has had two years to move its application through the LCRB process but has been unable to receive the required financial integrity and security program checks. North Root, however, has received those checks from the LCRB and is ready to move ahead right now.
COUNCIL HAS CONCERNS
Councillors agreed to have the application proceed to a public hearing, but not without expressing some reservations.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, the lone councillor to vote against moving the application forward, said he would prefer government-run cannabis stores with “good unionized jobs” over private operations.
Other councillors expressed concern about the hospital auxiliary’s existing tenancy.
Coun. Mary Trentadue raised concern about information provided in the staff report. The report says the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary is currently on a month-to-month lease arrangement and has been offered longer-term leases but is looking for a location that “better meets their needs.”
Trentadue said the indication that the group is quite happy to move isn’t consistent with what council has been hearing.
Coun. Jaimie McEvoy agreed, saying he would like to see city staff talk directly to the auxiliary and report back. He said he’d like to see the group get some assistance if it wants to continue operating in New Westminster.