A proposed pot shop won’t be setting up shop just outside of Woodstock’s downtown core after city council denied its zone-change application.
Council rejected an application to permit a zone change at 801 Dundas St. – across from the YMCA – from commercial to special commercial to allow for retail uses, something not normally permitted by the zoning for the site.
But surprisingly, the issue with the proposed pot shop wasn’t the cannabis, but the retail: the county’s official plan prefers retail uses in the downtown while larger commercial uses that attract more traffic, such as big box stores, are better suited for peripheral areas.
“In light of the policy direction of the official plan to direct professional, retail and business offices to the central area first, and only permit business uses in service commercial areas that have demonstrated that they are not suited to the central area … planning staff are of the opinion that the proposed cannabis retail store on the subject lands does not comply with the general intent and purpose of the official plan,” staff said in their report.
According to the staff report, the zoning on at 801 Dundas St. is meant to accommodate “single-trip traffic” connected to a main road, such as auto shops, a convenience store or restaurant, while retail should be located in core areas, such as downtown.
The decision came down to a difference of opinion between city planners and the developer’s own consultant, who said he believed that cannabis retail does did fall under the type of shop allowed by the zoning.
“On the face of the zoning bylaw, we have to ask permission to have a retail store in this location and retail store is not a permitted use, but this is much more that typical retail it has many more functions and others similar to a drug store … which is a permitted use in (a) C4 zone,” said Brandon Flewwelling, a planning consultant on the project.
“The function of this store is important to realize. It’s not typical retail, and that’s where we run into the difference of opinion between myself and county planning staff as far as permissibility of this use in the service commercial designation.”
The owner of the property, Paul Dhillon, said the location was approved by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and noted nearby LCBO and Beer Store locations, which are akin to cannabis retail and are acceptable under the current zoning.
Dhillon also outlined the safety features and appearance of the retail store in response to questions from council. Councillors did mention the proposed store’s proximity to the YMCA.
“In my C4 zoning currently, I can open a liquor store, a bar and a nightclub. So through a parallel to an LCBO, absolutely it’s across from a YMCA, but this isn’t Las Vegas. I’m not going to be creating garish signs, bright lights or anything like that,” Dhillon said.
With retail use, the focus is primarily on downtown and foot traffic, but Dhillon and Flewwelling argued a cannabis retail location would be similar to an LCBO in that it doesn’t rely on foot traffic.