Would-be Abbotsford cannabis sellers don’t love proposed limit on number of pot stores

City is proposing to cap the number of marijuana retailers at four – to start

The city is moving forward with rules that would initially limit the number of cannabis stores in Abbotsford to four – despite calls from would-be pot-sellers to loosen restrictions.

Council heard Monday that only a third of those who provided feedback on staff’s proposed marijuana retail rules agreed that an initial four-store limit was appropriate. A similar number agreed with plans to pre-zone 13 sites for such outlets.

But Mark Neill, the city’s director of community planning, said it’s possible that those results were skewed by the fact that many of those attending the open houses were hoping to open their own cannabis stores. A staff report said 182 people took a survey or attended an open house.

“A lot of people who participated in the open houses were those interested in attaining a licence and operating a store,” Neill told council. He said they commonly objected to both the four-store limit and the dozen or so potential sites.

Council endorsed the proposed approach, and staff will now craft a new policy, along with amendments to the city’s zoning bylaw to allow cannabis outlets on the proposed designated sites.

Of staff’s original list of 13 potential locations, three have been removed. The owners of two of those sites (the Sandman property and the Clayburn Shopping Centre on Immel Street) expressed no interest in being pre-zoned for cannabis sales. A third commercial centre – at the intersection of Townline Road and Blueridge Drive – was deemed unlikely to receive approval due to the proximity of schools.

That leaves 10 sites that are proposed to be pre-zoned. Those include the three large South Fraser Way malls, Highstreet Shopping Centre, Mt. Lehman Centre, Canadian Tire property, Meadow Fair Plaza (at the intersection of South Fraser Way and Clearbrook Road), Sumas Mountain Village, Parallel Marketplace and the Abbotsford Village Shopping Centre across from The News offices.

Neill told council they will be able to expand the four-store limit in the future.

“Adding more stores is something council can consider down the road,” Neill said. “It’s not to say four stores will be the maximum forever.”

But if council were to revisit the store cap following the upcoming public hearing on rezoning, that may trigger the need for a second public hearing, Neill noted.

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