Overwhelming opposition to Mission’s sixth cannabis dispensary has extinguished city council’s support for the new application.
The application for the store at The Junction Shopping Centre on London Avenue came before council in mid-August, and sparked a conversation over whether the city should put a cap on the number of stores.
All councillors agreed the application deserved to go forward to a public-input session without being hindered.
The public response was discussed by council on Sept. 6. Over 30 pieces of correspondence were submitted to the city, and all were opposed. Two people came to council in person to speak in favour – one was the business owner.
“There are times when it’s close, there are times when community input can’t be measured by the numbers of responses one way or the other. But when you have essentially 100 per cent of your input telling you that people aren’t supportive of it, that has to resonate with elected officials,” said Mayor Paul Horn. “I’m going to listen to the community this evening.”
Council decided not to wait until their next meeting to vote on a recommendation to the BC liquor and Liquor Control Board, and immediately voted against the new shop.
Coun. Danny Plecas said he was conflicted, because even though he thinks there needs to be a cap on the number of new stores, the location was appropriate and the application was strong.
“We said we would review (the number of stores) at some point to determine if we needed any more in our community, and we haven’t been able to do that yet,” Plecas said.
Horn said the application was a “cautionary tale,” and is one of the reasons why they are creating a neighbourhood approach policy for new applicants.
He said that applicants typically think they need to please four parties: city staff, council, investors and regulators; but they often miss the community, which he calls the “critical move.”
Horn said he wasn’t surprised by the public response because of a lack of early and meaningful community engagement.
“This isn’t the first enterprise that I think wanted to go into that mall, and that other enterprise did speak with neighbours and I think found out that it wasn’t likely to be supported,” he said. “It comes down entirely to civic engagement, entirely to how well the community is heard.”
Plecas brought forward a motion at the end of council to make staff come back with options on how to limit the number of cannabis stores in Mission, re-opening the old debate of free market versus hard cap. A second part of the motion stated council would not accept any new applications in the meantime.
Coun. Mark Davies said that any limit would likely stick “into infinity and beyond” and he would not support it, adding that the public input against this location serves as a better measure than a hard cap.
“We already have limits that are set by buffer zones,” Davies said.
Coun. Jag Gill and Horn agreed, saying it was a waste of staff’s time, with the latter adding it would probably be reversed again in the future.
Plecas’ motion, however, passed by a 4-3 vote.