Land use rules for cannabis retail in Lacombe finalized

Cannabis retail businesses, such as High Tide's Canna Cabana which is planned to open on 50 St. in downtown Lacombe, are now a permitted use in commercial districts following city council's approval of amendments to the Land Use Bylaw. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The rules outlining where the retail of cannabis will be permitted within the City of Lacombe have now been finalized.

Lacombe city council gave third and final reading to Bylaw 400.16, including amendments to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB), during their regular meeting on Monday.

Under the bylaw, once cannabis becomes legalized nation-wide in October, cannabis retailers will be allowed to operate in commercial districts, including downtown (C1), transitional commercial (C3), highway commercial (C4), as well as shopping centre district (C5) and light industrial district (l1).

Production and distribution, meanwhile, will be permitted in both light and heavy industrial districts (l1 and l2), and be discretionary in C3, C4, C5 and DC2 districts.

Neighbourhood commercial (C2) and direct control districts (DC2) will see cannabis retail stores as discretionary use, meaning development applications will be taken to Municipal Planning Committee (MPC) for review and consideration for approval.

Two site-specific exceptions will see cannabis distribution, production and retail banned, regardless of zoning, including 40 Brownstone Road in an l1 district, and the Winks Convenience Store at 5536 58 St., due to its proximity to Lacombe Composite High School.

The bylaw was passed by a vote of 4-2, with Councillor Reuben Konnik and Councillor Chris Ross voting against.

Konnik suggested making one last amendment to the bylaw in seeing cannabis retail become discretionary in the case of a shop wanting to open within 30 metres of a youth centre, or child care facility.

“It gives them one last opportunity to voice their concerns, and it’ll be up to MPC to decide. The way (the bylaw) sits now… there’s no recourse. There’s no way for them to voice their concerns,” he said.

The consideration wasn’t unfounded. A petition created by a member of the downtown business community wanting to outright ban cannabis retail in downtown Lacombe was circulated and garnered an estimated 200 signatures.

The petition, however, was declared invalid by CAO Matthew Goudy as it did not meet the Municipal Government Act requirements.

Coun. Thalia Hibbs disagreed with the suggested amendment.

“We’ve had a lot of discussion on this, we’ve had a lot of input from the community. We’ve been talking about this since April, so I’m a little frustrated this is coming up at the very last moment like this,” she said, noting council may be overly cautious and perhaps afraid of what will be a new industry in the community.

“I think we’re going down a path we don’t need to. The bylaw is good as written.”

Coun. Don Gullekson agreed.

“If we make them go to MPC, it adds at least a month to the process if not longer,” he said. “If we were going to make a change, I’d rather make it so they wouldn’t have to go to MPC….To add more red tape to these applications, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”

In a release issued Wednesday morning, City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey said the approval gives clarity to potential cannabis retailers.

“Council wants to ensure that when legalization occurs next month, there is no confusion around the appropriate land use districts for cannabis sales, production and distribution,” he said.

“Of greater concern to members  of our community will be the rules and regulations surrounding consumption of cannabis products. Council will be addressing this issue soon, and I am confident we can craft the appropriate guidelines that best suit our community expectations.”

Council has been looking at implementing a smoking bylaw that would see a zero-tolerance level for the consumption of cannabis in public within city limits, as well as increased restrictions for cigarette smokers and vapers. The bylaw received second reading over the summer.

In the meantime, development applications for cannabis retail operations will now be accepted by the city.

“The city is now accepting development applications on a first-come, first-serve basis for the production and retail sale of cannabis in Lacombe, said Deb Bonnett, manager of planning and development for the City of Lacombe. “There has been a lot of interest, and to date we have received two applications for retail sales.”

One of those interested parties included Canna Cabana, which hopes to open a dispensary on 50 St. across from Cilantro and Chive and next door to the bowling alley. Fuzzy Budz Inc. and East L.A. Buds Inc. also made applications to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Association (AGLC) to open stores at E-4912 50 Ave. and Bay A, 5206 Wolf Creek Drive, respectively.

Those with questions about the application process are asked to contact Planning and Development Services at (403)782-1264 for information.

Cannabis will officially become legalized in Canada Oct. 17, 2018.