With three pot shop applications to choose from, Coquitlam council went with plan John B.
Northern Lights Cannabis was given the right to open up shop at 1052 Austin Avenue following Monday’s unanimous vote from council. The choice was largely based on the reputation of the applicant, John B. Pub owner/operators Tara Hamaoka and Brent Lepinski.
“I don’t know that we could choose a more responsible purveyor of controlled substances,” Mayor Richard Stewart said.
Coun. Dennis Marsden concurred, noting the Lepinski family’s four decades in the community.
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“I think that’s really what enabled staff to rate [their application] as high as they did,” he said.
While city staff judged two other proposed pot shops in the neighbourhood to be “individually supportable,” Northern Lights Cannabis was chosen, in part due to Lepinski and Hamaoka’s valuable experience running the nearby pub and liquor store.
Prior to Monday’s public hearing, Stewart reminded council watchers that the issue was about land use rather than the legality of marijuana.
“Don’t refer to the fact that, from your perspective, the product shouldn’t be legal,” he told the crowd. “Because it is.”
One of the criticisms voiced during the hearing was around what one resident predicted would become a: “parking and traffic nightmare.”
As the city grows, council will likely need to take a closer look at parking in the Austin Heights area, acknowledged Coun. Craig Hodge.
“But the fact that there’s a lot of customers coming to the area is actually what we’re trying to do,” he said.
The application garnered support from neighbouring businesses, a pediatric dentist, Coquitlam Little League baseball and the Coquitlam Metro-Ford Soccer Club, as well as the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Heights Business Improvement Association.
If there needs to be a cannabis shop in the area, an ideal candidate would be a respected community leader, according to Austin Heights BIA executive director Lisa Landry.
Council addressed concerns from a speaker who was concerned council was about to approve three cannabis shops in the area.
“I have heard no appetite on council for more than one [cannabis store] in the Austin Heights neighbourhood,” Stewart said.
While the location is close to several services that cater to children and youth, city staff consider the location appropriate due to the “dense urban context of the Austin Heights commercial area.”
“Cannabis is part of our society now,” Coun. Teri Towner said. “It’s up to us to educate the youngsters amongst us and keep them safe.”
Having a licensed cannabis shop means more safety and security, according to Coun. Brent Asmundson.
“Kids were never not aware of marijuana,” he said, noting most of it was likely bought at school. “I find sometimes parents and people have blinders on that kids don’t know about drugs.”
The shop is set to operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The store is slated to employ eight full-time and six part-time workers.