Penticton city council has been moved to change its mind and will allow cannabis retails stores on both Main and Front streets moving forward.
The decision was made on Tuesday night following a public hearing that saw numerous business owners, property owners and residents come forward in favour of downtown marijuana retail.
Mayor John Vassilaki excused himself from the hearing after declaring a conflict of interest.
“I own property on Main Street,” Vassilaki said.
Those who spoke asked council to rethink the positive aspects of downtown marijuana sales.
“If you look at what these people are proposing to put down there, their storefronts are fine. There’s nothing wrong with it,” Daryl Clarke, spokesperson for the Penticton Chamber of Commerce, said.
Clarke disagreed with council’s original view that marijuana sales would increase crime downtown.
“In some parts of downtown we do have a crime problem right now but those aren’t the people that are using these stores,” he said. “The worst these people are going to do is go home and sit on their couch.”
The Downtown Penticton Association (DPA) also appealed to council to allow cannabis stores downtown.
“A few of the drawings I did see on some of the potential businesses — if they get the OK — look beautiful,” DPA executive director Lynn Allin said. “They look clean. They look neat. They look current. They’re eye-appealing. They’re fine.”
There is strong demand for cannabis retail sales in Penticton, according to city planning manager Blake Leven, but there was no indication of how many applications have been received so far.
An original deadline of Jan. 1 was moved to Feb. 1 for cannabis store applications after council heard some people were experiencing communication delays due to the mail strike.
Several speakers asked council to also consider local applications over corporate applications.
“We have a standing in this community. Our children are in this community. We’re not corporate money. We’re working folks that just want to be part of this,” Sandra Malko, owner of Better Than Nature Indoor Garden Supply, said.
Malko also made one of several appeals to council to consider including C7 zoning areas in the city as acceptable areas for cannabis retail, which council has deferred for a future discussion.
Penticton is currently looking at allowing pot stores in C4, C5 and C6 zoned areas of the city.
“C7 reach was too great,” Leven said of including the area. “It could be considered at a later date.”
Council had suggested at previous meetings that cannabis retail was not appropriate on Main and Front Streets because provincial and federal laws require the storefronts to be covered and plainly decorated.
Penticton wants downtown store interiors to be visible from the street and more transparent.
Cannabis retail applications will be screened by staff and forwarded to council. Successful applications will then be forwarded to the province for licensing.