The lines governing where cannabis can be sold legally in Prince Rupert have been drawn, but not all residents are happy about it.
That was the sentiment both during and after the public and regular city council meeting on Dec. 10 at city hall.
The meeting was the last opportunity for residents to voice their opinions on zoning bylaw no. 3430, 2018, which outlined the designated area where retail cannabis businesses can operate.
The originally proposed zone was made up of a large section of Prince Rupert’s downtown, which stretches roughly from Second Avenue West to Cow Bay. A recent change in the proposed zoning bylaw expanded that zone to include the area surrounding the Five Corners intersection at 1100 Park Avenue.
The bylaw makes it possible for a cannabis retail store to be opened within the zone. However, the business will still have to receive approval by the city, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch and receive permission from the property owner.
At the beginning of the public hearing, city planner Zeno Krekic gave a summary of the bylaw and its implications. Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain then opened the floor to comments from the public.
Terry Sawka, who said he has lived on Park Avenue since 1964 and owns property in the area, said he was in opposition to allowing a store to operate within the Five Corners.
“I think creating another outlet is just going to create more problems,” he said. “The way this is designed here, the property I currently own is almost kitty-corner across the street from it, and I have serious issues. If I were to sell my property there’s a possibility that the value of my property will diminish because I have people selling pot across the street.”
John Marogna echoed Sawka’s sentiment when he spoke and questioned why he had not been informed by council about the proposed zoning amendments, instead having to find out through the Northern View newspaper.
“I own three quarters of the property that you’d like to change,” he said. “Did any of you guys ask me if it was okay to do it?
“I am against any drugs. I do not like drugs, I never had one single drug in my life. Whether you like it or not a drug is a drug is a drug. Not on my property.”
Not all of the public feedback was against the amendment changes. Dustin Woodman said he didn’t think negative judgments about the sale of cannabis were appropriate if it has been legalized and potential businesses have gone through the required legal processes.
“People are trying hard to start things in this town and we can’t be making moral judgments about whether we think it’s good or bad,” he said. “…I live in the area, I’ll be living in the area for probably the rest of my life and I see this as being beneficial and I see this as being a way that Rupert grows.”
Once the public had been given an opportunity to finish making their comments, the public meeting was closed. Later, during the regular meeting, council voted unanimously to give a third reading to the bylaw amendment and adopted it.
After the regular council meeting, Sawka and Marogna both stayed behind to voice their displeasure at council’s decision to go ahead with the amendment. Speaking primarily with councillors Wade Neish and Blair Mirau, both Sawka and Marogna continued to raise objections to allowing potential cannabis retail stores to be opened at Five Corners for more than 30 minutes.
“I think city is definitely more interested in getting revenue than cooperating with the owners,” Marogna said, outside city hall after the meeting finished.
Neish, who spoke with both Marogna and Sawka after the meeting, said that council had received feedback from the police, city staff, firefighters and other members of the community during the consultation process.
“I used a whole bunch of information to make that decision, it wasn’t just based on what one person has to say,” he said.