Vancouver’s new pot shop regulations were tested tonight, as the city’s Board of Variance heard appeals from four dispensaries who’s development permit applications were rejected by the city.
All four appeals were from dispensaries fewer than 300 meters from a school – one of the key provisions in Vancouver’s bylaw.
The board showed little interest in bending on the city’s rule, rejecting all four appeals.
Rejected applicant Adam Blender with the SWED society says he thinks the way the distance is measured is unfair.
“It seems obscene. If it’s from property line to property line, what person can walk through a building. If you’re going to do it all the way down the street as people would walk, it makes a whole lot more sense.”
It was a common refrain as the 300 meter rule was tested from a variety of angles by applicants from the SWED society, Canpassion, The Vancity Medicinal Society, and BC Pain society.
The dispensaries questioned whether the distance should be measured from door-to-door rather than property line to property line, by walking distance rather than “as the crow flies,” or whether physical barriers such as a ravine or busy street should affect the distance.
Only that last argument got any traction, with at least one board member conceding it could represent a “site specific hardship.”
The rejections seem to sound a clear warning to applicants that the Board has little appetite to budge on the issue of minimum distance from schools.
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Ian Dawkins, who was representing the Vancity Medicinal society, says he was troubled by the board’s lack of flexibility and concerned it was too willing to heed the City of Vancouver’s recommendations.
“Certainly when we’re dealing with any other kind of building or zoning issue the board of variance has enormous discretion to give or take a meter here, a floor there, it’s up to them based on a number of factors. And this is no different. Asking the board of variance to make a five meter for a dispensary that is on a busy highway separating it from the school seems entirely reasonably to me.”
But the decision was music to the ears of Jason McBride who heads Stratford Hall, a private school near the BC Pain Society on Commercial Drive.
“I’m glad that the bylaw is being upheld, that’s all. I’m glad that they’re not turning this into a referendum on whether medical marijuana is a pro or a con for society, it’s just the fact that the bylaw currently stands as it is, and we’re just happy that they’ve upheld it.”
The city of Vancouver voted to allow and regulate dispensaries in the city last June, but set strict rules to apply.
Just 14 of 176 applications even met the city’s requirements to apply for a development application, and just five of those look ready to move forward so far.
58 other dispensaries who had their development permit applications rejected are planning appeals in the coming months.