It’s not a “yes,” but it’s not a “no” either.
That, as the first Vancouver dispensary fighting it’s rejected development permit application walks out of city hall to fight another day, scoring an a deferral of their case until summer.
Mount Pleasant’s Lotusland is the seventh pot shop blocked by the city for being withing 300 meters of a school to appeal, but the first to have any success arguing its case to the Board of Variance, a body that serves to adjudicate zoning disputes.
At issue? How the city is measuring the 300 meters.
A number of dispensaries have unsuccessfully challenged the measurement, arguing it should be from door to door, or by distance walked along a street.
But the city’s development branch has been firm the distance is to be measured as the shortest possible distance from a school’s property line to that of site where a dispensary is located.
John Greer, Assistant Director for Development Services calls it a matter of consistency.
“The city is trying to be fair in the way we measure and be consistent … if we start measuring all over the place were going to accused of not being consistent.”
In Lotusland’s case – that measurement was to the edge of the building it occupies, rather than the unit it leases, which is a strata property.
Armed with lawyer Kirk Tousaw, Lotusland was able to convince the Board the city should have measured to the edge of their unit, something Tousaw says is only fair.
“The bylaw appears to contemplate measureing in one way for strata units, and in another way for stand alone units. That is not the kind of consistent application of the bylaw that the city claims to be in favour of.”
The city adjourned the appeal, with plans to re-measure and hear the case again in July.
Tousaw says this kind of flexibility is exactly why the board exists.
“If you sat through the afternoon session, you saw a number of people who had issues with the strict application of the zoning bylaws as it relates to their property. And many of those applications were granted. Surely, if that’s the case for someone removing a tree or building a deck, it ought to also be the case for someone attempting to serve the city of Vancouver and its sick and suffering citizens”
But it wasn’t all good news for dispensaries tonight.
At least two others had their appeal rejected, again, because of the 300 meter rule.
Rohand Gardiner, with the Green Cross society was one of them, and expressed frustration the board was unwilling to bend.
“It’s unfortunate. I don’t think they’re going to give an inch to anybody. We’ve been there 11 years. When we moved we went through a year of litigation and paper work to try and get our doors open working along side the city.”
He says he thought the board should have taken a more holisitc approach, looking at his non profit’s history and place in the community.
More than 50 others will make their case in the coming months.
Only 14 dispensaries made the original cut for development permits under the city’s new bylaw; five of those have advance to the final stage of applying for a business license.