On Aug. 14 the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board heard an appeal against the development authority’s decision to conditionally approve a development permit file for a change/intensification of use for a cannabis store located at 309 First Street SW called Quadz Cannabis.
The board was led by Jim Graham followed by two other board members, Tricia Rakos and Tom Sales.
The appellants were the owners of Pizza Hut, Karla and David Fitzgerald, whose store is next to where the planned cannabis store will be located. The town administration representatives were Sarah Peck, planner one, Khalid Mohammed, manager of planning and development services for the town, and Christine Berger, municipal planning intern.
Peck said the cannabis facility will be recognized as a store even though it was previously approved as a cannabis counselling clinic. She said the cannabis facility has applied for a change of use to become a store.
The Quadz Cannabis owners applied for it to be a store where people can come in and learn about the difference between medical and recreational marijuana, Peck added.
She also said customers can also learn about cannabis in general if they do not know much about it and they will have the option to buy recreational cannabis if they would like to.
“In cannabis retail, it is true we cannot have counselling, it’s no longer called a counselling center it’s called an education center. If someone comes in and is confused about medical versus recreational, we have a centre where people are staffed with product knowledge and a system to explain to people how the recreational market works,” Shawn Kumar, operator/owner of Quadz Cannabis, explained.
“Our angle is we were going to open a counselling centre to let people know about medical marijuana and then transition into a recreational store, which we are doing now and will have an education centre for people who walk in and want some info on what is going on,” Kumar said.
Karla and David Fitzgerald stated they had some concerns for their business if the cannabis store is approved. They said their concerns are how the cannabis store will have an impact on the culture and history of the town and how it will impact the family atmosphere of their business.
“(We’ve owned) the Pizza Hut here in High River for the past 18 months. We made the decision to come to High River and we actually decided to purchase our building so that’s why this is really important to us because we aren’t just a franchisee of the building. We don’t plan to go anywhere, we purchased this building to be a part of the community,” Karla said in her presentation to the board.
“We are not sure if people are going to come buy cannabis and come right to us, perhaps, and maybe that will be an increase to our business but our challenge is we are a very family-orientated business, we have a lot of traffic coming and going but we also have team members who are under the age of 18,” Karla said.
She also said they are concerned with the smell and exposure because some of their pizza ovens require air intake.
“Our objection to the cannabis store being brought into the Central Business District is the impact it’s going to have on the downtown history. The direction of use (and) the culture it’s going to create down there and the safety of the business, the customers, and the employees that are in the community,” Karla said. “We really value that we get to be a part of this community and that our business feels privileged to be downtown front and center of all the activities.”
Both parties had a chance to present their side to the board and Graham said they decided to take both sides into consideration and discuss it further among themselves and will release their decision within 15 days from the meeting.
“It is clear to us that there are some issues here that we have the opportunity to speak to (but) there are some issues that are not our issues that would have to be taken up with the council or brought to the court of the appeal,” said Graham. “They are not issues that we, the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, can relate to, we basically look at the bylaw as it exists.”