Some applications for Langley Township’s first cannabis shops are dead in the water, but a number are moving forward following a special council meeting Monday, Oct. 19.
Councillors debated for almost four hours over a report on the 20 applications that have come in, vying for eight spots, one in each neighbourhood plus an additional spot around the 200th Street highway interchange in Carvolth.
The complex process of approving a retail cannabis outlet was outlined by Ramin Seifi, the Township’s manager of engineering and community development.
The process is two-tracked, involving approvals from both the province and local municipalities, and either side can stop an application in its tracks.
“We have a big job ahead of us,” Mayor Jack Froese said following a staff presentation on the various applications, which were not evenly spread around the community.
There were eight requests for Aldergrove, three each for Fort Langley, Willowbrook, and the Carvolth area, and just one each for Willoughby, Walnut Grove, and Murrayville. Brookswood saw zero applications.
Township staff ranked each report on a seven-point scale, with most applications scoring between five and seven. The seven points included being located within a neighbourhood’s commercial core, having enough parking, and being distant from parks and schools.
Technically, despite the policy to locate one store per neighbourhood, the council could decide to approve more than one per area, Seifi noted. They could also turn down stores.
“You’re going to have eight different opinions, looking at it,” noted Councillor Steve Ferguson, considering there were eight members of council taking part in the debate.
Ultimately, the council voted to send a number of applications to the next stage, after wrangling about boundary lines, requirements, and rejecting a few outright.
Debate began with council considering a number of possible ways to choose when there were multiple applications in the same neighbourhood that had identical scores from staff.
All three applications in the Carvolth area were scored at seven, noted Councillor Kim Richter.
“Should we not be looking at a lottery system?” she said.
Coun. Eric Woodward mentioned that he didn’t necessarily think the Township even needed eight cannabis stores.
He also joked about a possible method of choosing when there were competing equal applications in the same neighbourhood.
“I’m a Survivor fan, maybe we should see who can make fire first,” Woodward said.
Seifi noted that the one-per-neighbourhood plan came out of public consultation with local citizens.
Several councillors also objected to a store that had picked a site at 72nd Avenue and 208th Street in Willoughby – the only Willoughby applicant – as being too near children and residences. Woodward proposed that the applicant be denied and have any fees they’ve paid so far be refunded, and that was passed by council.
Council also voted to send most applications that scored seven out of seven to the next phase.
That includes three locations in Carvolth, one in Walnut Grove, two in Willowbrook, and one in Fort Langley.
Another four that scored six out of seven were also sent forward, including a pair in Aldergrove and a store in Murrayville.
All those not moving forward will have their application fees returned.
Six motions put forward by various councillors failed on a tie vote, as there are just eight councillors while Coun. Margaret Kunst is absent until her campaign to become MLA in Langley East.
The next phase will be first and second readings on bylaws for rezoning for the potential store sites, after which there will be public hearings on those the council votes to approve.
“It’s almost like we’re doing an interview,” Froese said of the next phase. Council will be able to ask questions of the would-be store owners at the public hearings.
During the presentation, Seifi noted that the provincial government, through the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, looks at every applicant through their own approval process, including determining if they are a “fit and proper” person to operate a cannabis outlet, which includes looking for possible criminal ties or background.