City council signed off on the rezoning for a proposed cannabis store in College Heights on Monday, despite a flurry of feedback from people both for and against.
Mor-D Enterprises Ltd. applied for a rezoning of the building at 5787 Albert Pl. – the former location of the College Heights Pub and liquor store – to allow the development of a cannabis retail store. Normally the rezoning process would have trigged a public hearing to allow the public to speak directly to council on the issue, but council voted to waive the requirement for a public hearing using special powers allowed them by the province during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the public were still able to make written submissions to council by mail and email.
Coun. Garth Frizzell said he was concerned about voting on the matter without holding a public hearing, given the amount of public interest in the rezoning.
“(Receiving) 20-plus letters should have triggered that kind of consideration,” Frizzell said. “It’s too late in this case, we’ve already expressed our views. (But) we are not going to back to normal council chambers anytime soon.”
Coun. Cori Ramsay said she felt the written submissions to council represented an accurate cross-section of public views on the issue. She said she’s heard the concerns raised by some letter writers, particularly about the proximity to College Heights Secondary School.
“If we were to open it up to a public hearing, it would be just as divisive as the correspondence is,” Ramsay said. “This is well over 800 metres away from the school. (And) it follows a similar business model to what was there before.”
Coun. Brian Skakun said there was a pub and cold beer store on the site for years, and confirmed with administration that a new pub or liquor store could open on the site under the current zoning.
Also, he said, unless things had changed since he was in high school, students can buy marijuana illegally from drug dealers. Legal cannabis stores are required to ask for ID and can only sell to people who are 19 years old and older.
“It’s going to be a cannabis store, it’s going to be government-regulated,” Skakun said.
High school students shouldn’t even be able to get in the building, Coun. Terri McConnachie added.