FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The City of Fort St. John has released an updated version of the proposed zoning amendment bylaw regulating where cannabis retail locations will be permitted to operate following the legalization of recreational cannabis in October.

The City will be hosting a public hearing next Monday to hear feedback from residents on the proposed bylaw, which passed first reading at the regular council meeting on July 9th.

Taking the feedback from over 700 Fort St. John residents in an online public feedback campaign into account, staff presented a proposed bylaw that would permit cannabis retail operations on all properties zoned C2 – Downtown Commercial, C3 – Service Commercial, and C4 – General Commercial – provided those properties were located at least 200 metres from a school, 100 metres from a park, and 100 metres from another cannabis retail location.

However, council voted in favour of making some changes to the proposed bylaw after taking into account feedback from the RCMP, School District #60, and Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce president Nelson Stowe.

Among the changes made by Council include eliminating the proposed 100-metre setback between cannabis retail locations, and only allowing those retail locations on C2-zoned properties.

Reasons for the changes include Mayor Ackerman citing Stowe’s opposition to the setback between locations stemming from the fact that apart from the provincially-regulated 1-kilometre buffer zone between liquor stores, the City does not regulate the distance between other retail operations, giving an example of shoe stores.

Interestingly, the Chamber of Commerce released a survey for its members to gather their thoughts on where cannabis retail locations should be allowed the day after last week’s council meeting.

Council also cited the RCMP telling the City that it preferred cannabis stores be located in the City’s downtown core as the reason for not allowing cannabis stores in C3 and C4 zones.

When asked, mayor Lori Ackerman stated that the RCMP did not include any reasoning in their preference for cannabis retail to be confined to the downtown core.

In the updated version of the bylaw, city planners give clarification regarding properties that partially fall under the buffer distances from schools and parks of 200 metres and 100 metres respectively.

Staff say that the bylaw has been updated to state that the 200m and 100m setbacks only apply to properties that fall entirely within the buffer zone, meaning any properties that are partially covered will be permitted to operate a cannabis store.

The public hearing is scheduled to take place at Fort St. John City Hall on Monday, July 23rd at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.