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Posted: January 16, 2019

Sides heard at cannabis store hearing

By Stephanie Stevens

It was standing room only at the District of Invermere (DOI) council chambers on January 15, as about 54 people crowded in for the public hearing for Blooming World Cannabis Retail Store.

Parkside Place, Invermere. Quiniscoe Homes photo

This was the public’s final opportunity to speak to the proposed business, which would be located in Invermere at Unit 103, 905 7th Avenue (Parkside Place), before council votes on whether or not to support it. The final decision will be made by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCCB).

Blooming World’s owners Olivier Hogue, Shawn Wernig and Marjorie Fournier gave a presentation to the crowd, outlining their plans as well as the research they have done to address concerns, including four open houses.

The only concern voiced at the meeting was location, with five people, including one current Parkside Place business owner and one residential property owner, speaking against it and 20 speaking in support.

Erin Reid owns a residential unit at Parkside Place and expressed concern over her property value going down.

“I am opposed to the location only,” said Reid. “They have done a great job, but will it affect the rentability of my unit or affect sales (at other shops)? I don’t want to see the current businesses negatively affected. There are a lot of intangibles and we have to look at the big picture.”

Reid added that parents may be reluctant to walk their children past a cannabis retail store.

Children’s clothing store Rainbow Donkey owner Beth Neale also spoke against the location without giving any further specifics.

At the other end of the spectrum, business owner and operator Josie Streicek, who operates within 100 metres of the proposed store, said she would “rather have a pot store near me than a liquor store.

“No one has issues with liquor stores with signs and a Texas mickey in the window on display,” said Streicek, noting that Blooming World will not have any advertising on the storefront and the public will be unable to see into the store as per LCCB regulations.

Doris Peters of Quinisco Homes, who also owns two residential units at Parkside Place and has “financial interest in two others,” spoke in favour of the store’s location.

“This is exactly the kind of business I envisioned for Parkside Place… it will be like walking into an Apple Store,” said Peters. “If I thought it would negatively impact my properties I would not support it, but I don’t believe it will, so they have my complete support.”

Margot Penner also runs a business at Parkside Place and lives in one of the residential units, and added her voice to the supportive side.

“As a health professional I am really excited to see this coming,” Penner said. “And as a resident I see no issues.”

In response to concerns over lowered properly values, Wernig said while there are no studies yet for B.C., the two studies he was able to find in Colorado reported property values actually went up by six to eight per cent after cannabis stores were opened. He added they have also driven to Kimberley where there are two cannabis shops open, spoken to residents and business owners there and received no negative feedback.

There were a few comments that the “fear of the unknown” was a large part of the concerns being expressed, but one Invermere resident said Wernig, Hogue and Fournier allayed those for her at one of the open houses.

“I am a mom, and I shop at the Rainbow Donkey,” said Kalyn Adams. “When this all first came up I had a lot of questions and I was concerned, so I went to one of the open houses and they were able to answer all my questions. It totally reversed my opinion, and I am now completely in support of it.

“I will still go to the chiropractor and get my bones cracked, then maybe stop by the pot store, then go to Rainbow Donkey and buy my kid a winter hat,” Adams said.

Karl Conway, who owns a business within 100 metres of the proposed shop, also spoke in support.

“I support this application,” said Conway. “I think they have addressed all the concerns well.”

In addition to the comments at the meeting, the DOI has received 46 letters and emails in regards to the shop, 32 in support and 14 opposed.

Mayor Al Miller ended the meeting by thanking all those in attendance.

“This is new territory for us, and I want to say thank you for all the calm and deliberate thoughts expressed here tonight. You made my job easy.”

Council will vote on the application at its next regular meeting, January 22, and cannot take any further comments until after the vote.


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