District of Barriere Council chambers were filled to bursting last Monday evening when some 60 area residents turned out for a Public Hearing regarding the possible rezoning of property in the downtown core so that a cannabis store could come in.                                Submitted photo:

District of Barriere Council chambers were filled to bursting last Monday evening when some 60 area residents turned out for a Public Hearing regarding the possible rezoning of property in the downtown core so that a cannabis store could come in. Submitted photo:

No cannabis store for downtown Barriere

Over 60 area residents turned out for a Public Hearing at the District of Barriere last Monday evening regarding the rezoning of a property in the downtown core to accommodate a cannabis store.

Zoning Bylaw No. 111, Amendment Bylaw No. 171 received first reading on Sept. 3, 2019, which then required a public hearing to take place before proceeding to second reading. The site specific use of “Cannabis Sales” at 4639 Barriere Town Road subject to the owner/tenant being in possession of a valid Provincial Non-Medical Cannabis Retail Store License has created much discussion within the community. There was also great concern that the Cannabis Store would be replacing the Sweetnam’s store.

Residents were very eager to “have their say” in regards to a cannabis store in the downtown core. Mayor Ward Stamer called the hearing to order at 7 p.m. and then District CAO Colleen Hannigan pointed out that in order to open a cannabis store in the area the applicant must have the location approved by the District of Barriere first and would then go to the Province for further approvals and licensing.

Hannigan then read a number of letters that had been submitted in regards to the cannabis store in the heart of the community, noting 61 out of town letters of support had been received and 31 letters of support from the community. Letter writer’s comments included; “I would not be opposed”, “I am 81 years old and use this product and do not like driving to large cities for it”, “Excellent location”, and from Barriere and Area Chamber of Commerce president Bill Kershaw “Having a cannabis outlet in the downtown core would attract business to the downtown core”.

It was noted that a petition opposing the cannabis store and carrying 459 signatures (25 of them being children) was also given to the District.

Hannigan also read a number of letters in opposition to the store. Some of the comments included, “I do not think it is in the best interests of our community… all the Secondary children walk past there every day”, “I am very opposed to this – not opposed to the cannabis store – just not in the downtown core”, “This is a family oriented community and we do not want our town to go down in the dirt..there are enough drug heads here and if this passes I will be moving for sure”, “I am greatly opposed to cannabis replacing Sweetnams. All the high school kids stop there at noontime. I greatly urge council to consider the needs of the community and not allow this cannabis store”, I do not feel this is a good decision for our city. Please listen to the voices of our city”.

Mayor Stamer then invited those in the audience to speak with a three minute time limit for each speaker. James Secord said, “I am 100 per cent against this… If you want to sell drugs do it out of a drug store. You are going to ruin this whole town by turning it into a drug town.”

“I have 10 foster kids,” said Jen Nickel, “I think there must be a better place that we can put this store.”

Caleb Cartwright stated, “I personally find the location is not the best choice, kids go there multiple times. I don’t want it going close to the high school.”

M. Walker stated, “I am opposed to see the cannabis store in that location, seeing all the children walk by that store every day. Cannabis is legal and we are going to face it whether we like it or not – but not in that location where the children are.”

Barriere Secondary 2018 grad Samantha Jones said, “If we take a family run business out of that area I think it will negatively impact our town. It is next to the tourist center, so when people who come to our town are they going to say “Yay! They have liquor and cannabis?”

Dan Sweetnam, the proprietor of Sweetnam’s store, read a letter he submitted to council. Excerpts from his letter include, “I do not believe this is a suitable location for a retail cannabis store due to the many children, teens and families who frequent, live and walk past this location. Even though it may be outside of the Ministry of Educations requirements for proximity to schools, this is the main walking path for many young people to get home from school; as well, the school bus has a pick up and drop off location very close to the property. I also do not believe it sets a good image for the downtown core of Barriere with prospective new residents, tourists and current residents. Barriere has spent many years trying to clean up the community; deal with past drug issues; and create a more welcoming, safer family-friendly atmosphere to its downtown core. A retail cannabis store right downtown certainly does not promote a safe family friendly community.

“Being a business owner in this community for 12 and-a-half years, as well as, a youth advocate/worker and a safe space for youth and those with addiction issues of all ages, I believe I have a good understanding on the issues, concerns and needs within this community. Over the past month and a half, I have heard a vast amount of public opinions in regards to this location being used as a retail cannabis store, and almost the entire majority of comments from residents, youth, tourists, homeowners, visiting family members and cannabis users, have been in objection to having this location rezoned and in objection to allowing a retail cannabis store anywhere downtown.

“Even though my personal opinion is I do not believe we need a retail cannabis store in Barriere, largely based on my 30 years of experience dealing with drug and alcohol addiction issues in youth, children and families, I have listened to a vast amount of people and feel that there is a 50/50 split on whether Barriere should have a retail cannabis store or not. There are certainly enough people who feel having one located outside of the downtown core and out of the path of children and families would be acceptable, even if they don’t use cannabis personally. These people also feel it should not be a center focus of this community and somewhere where if tourists and locals want it, they can drive to a more discreet location for their own privacy as well.

“Addressing the Community Plan for how many retail cannabis stores will be allowed in our small community and their locations should be a priority for this council to put forward to the community….

“For the record, I have heard the opinions of many people who agree that having only one retail cannabis store in Barriere would be okay, and even though I personally would not use it or support it, I understand there are those who will and do, but I do not believe more than one retail cannabis store is necessary in our community and definitely not in the downtown or family based areas of our community.”

Dan Sweetnam also assured those present, “No matter if we do have to move out of the store you are not going to lose Sweetnam’s. We are going to find a way to stay in this community that we love.”

There were a number of other people who spoke against the rezoning application and also some who spoke for it.

Applicant Shane Baykey said, “The big thing I see here is jobs . The store would have 10 to 12 jobs. There are no jobs at Sweetnams it is a family run store…This is a big deal for this little town. This is not just money in my pocket but a lot of money in a lot of people’s pockets. People can’t afford to live in Kamloops, so they live in Barriere and travel back and forth to jobs. This way they would have jobs here. The kids wouldn’t know what is in the store as you can’t see in the windows, there is no advertising – it is all regulated. I think this is a good thing for Barriere.”

People continued to comment until Mayor Stamer finally called for “anymore comments” and there were none. The Public Hearing closed just after 8 p.m. and council then moved into their Regular Council Meeting.

After adoption of the minutes from previous meetings the first item on the agenda was Zoning Bylaw No. 11, Amendment Bylaw No. 171. Council discussed the granting of a zoning change to permit a cannabis store into the downtown core and then called for a vote to accept the second reading of the bylaw. The second reading was defeated with Councilor Scott Kershaw the only one opposed.

It was noted that although the zoning change has been defeated at this time, the possibility of it coming back to council at some time in the future is always there.