One of Tofino’s most lengthy and formidable community consultation exercises in recent memory has reached its conclusion as the town’s municipal council unanimously approved two temporary use permits for cannabis retail stores on Aug. 12.
“That brings us to the end of a very long process, but the beginning of something new,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne.
The district’s public consultation process around cannabis retail, which included multiple open houses and workshops, began when Tofino announced a temporary ban on pot sales in February, 2018, in the wake of the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis.
The announcement was met with heavy scrutiny from residents leading to a robust public engagement process resulting in an application window where anyone wanting to open a pot shop in town was asked to lay out the social benefits their proposed business would bring to Tofino.
After reviewing those proposals, council picked two frontrunners for cannabis retail shops, West Coast Cannabis Store at 1182 Pacific Rim Highway and Daylight Cannabis at 1-671 Industrial Way, which have now each officially received temporary use permits to operate in Tofino for the next three years.
Council approved both temporary use permit applications with little discussion following two presentations from district planner Peter Thicke during their Aug. 12 regular meeting.
Thicke explained that the temporary use permits would be valid for three years and could be renewed once for another three years after that, but cautioned against thinking about those permits as permanent.
“Something that’s quite important to remember is that they’re very much intended to be temporary in nature. These aren’t long-term land-use solutions,” he said. “They’re basically just a tool that allows a short-term use that’s not allowed under the particular zoning for that property.”
While they’ve both cleared their local government’s application gauntlet, each store must still receive a provincial licence to operate and council agreed to endorse their respective applications to B.C.
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Under the terms of their permits, neither store is permitted to stay open past 9 p.m., no vegetation can be removed around their business, no smoking will be allowed in the vicinity of either site, all lighting must comply with Tofino’s dark sky policy and adequate security measures must be maintained.
Thicke added that both companies must submit an annual report explaining what they’ve done to live up to the social benefit promises they made in their respective proposals.
“We just want to make sure that the applicants are actually at least trying to do the things that they’ve said they’re going to do,” he explained. “This isn’t something super fancy, it’s just a reminder to mayor and council as well as staff as to what these businesses are doing in order to take steps towards actualizing the proposals that they’ve put forward to us.”
He said the district had reached out to the community for comments about both applications, but received none.
“I think a big part of that was because we had so much public consultation earlier on in this process,” he said.
Thicke said the West Coast Cannabis Store would fit in well with its surrounding properties at the commercial-heavy Pacific Rim Highway location, but raised concerns over Daylight Cannabis’ location on Industrial Way, noting it would be the only retail-only set up in the industrial zoned area.
“It basically encourages industrial uses to be here and encourages alternative forms of employment, however it does not encourage retail exclusively,” he said. “Currently, staff does not support the long-term use of exclusive retail.”
He said that conversation would spark up again if and when the company applies to renew its permit in three years and added that significant work would be needed to amend Tofino’s Official Community Plan to permanently allow the retail-only use.