Denied plans for potentially Sidney’s first pot shop on Beacon Avenue flamed back to life after the provincial government dropped the requirement for non-transparent retail windows.
In October 2019, Sidney council denied plans by Cindy Pendergast and Brad Styles to open Happy Buddha Cannabis in the 2400-block of Beacon Avenue by a vote of 4-3 with opponents pointing to the municipality’s requirement for transparent windows on Beacon Avenue among other reasons.
This requirement was not reconcilable with requirements from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCRB) for opaque window coverings — that is until late last month when the province dropped that requirement.
Pendergast said the provincial decision has her and Styles elated. “My gosh, we are doing jumping jacks over here,” she said.
According to Pendergast, the new rule came into effect the moment the province announced it, adding the LCRB has already approved a revised design, a pre-condition for Pendergast and Styles to resubmit their application to Sidney.
The provincial announcement comes against the backdrop of a legal dispute between the Town of Sidney and Pendergast and Styles over the denied application with Pendergast’s lawyer arguing provincial law trumps municipal law.
“A municipal government cannot require what a provincial government prohibits,” John Alexander of Cox Taylor Lawyers in Victoria said last year.
While both sides wait for a ruling after the case worked its way through the system in late winter and early spring, the change in provincial regulation would likely render any decision moot, said Alexander.
“So we are just trying to find out from the Town of Sidney, whether they are going to look again at this application under the new regulations,” he said. “If they will, then we can let the court know that we don’t need the court to make any decision. If they won’t, then perhaps the parties are still going to end up having to have some matters resolved in court.”
Happy Buddha hopes that Sidney council will reconsider the application under the new regulation, said Alexander. “And that it will be approved and that would be the end of any potential dispute.”
It is not clear yet if and when that might be the case, with provincial approval for the new window design being a precondition for any resubmission to the municipality. Pendergast could not give any exact figure about when Happy Buddha might be in business.
“So many variables have to be determined that I’m unable to say that with any certainty,” she said. “What I would say though is that we are very hopeful that we can finally reach an agreement that makes all of us happy — the province, the Town, and of course us. I will say that we are hopeful that it will happen soon.”
Paula Kully, Sidney’s communication coordinator, said the municipality appreciates the LCRB’s “clarification” of its policy concerning retail cannabis storefronts. “It will help in assessing future applications under what is still a very new process,” she said.
The municipality also declined to comment on the status of the legal dispute while the case is active.
The provincial ruling could also have broader implications for cannabis retail in Sidney.
While current zoning permits cannabis retail on Beacon Avenue, council earlier instructed staff to bring forward a zoning amendment to remove cannabis retail from Beacon Avenue, said Corey Newcomb, Sidney’s senior manager of long range planning. “This resolution will also be reviewed in light of the recent LCRB policy change,” he said.
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