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Cannabis store for Pine Centre Mall one step closer

A proposed cannabis store for a portion of the old Sears store in Pine Centre Mall is one step closer to reality as council gave third reading to the plan Monday.

However, the proposal isn’t without some opposition as the vote passed by only a 6-1 margin, with Coun. Cori Ramsay voting against proceeding. She questioned whether the city’s bylaw governing cannabis stores has a minimum distance away from schools and was told it does not.

“The close proximity with the school to this cannabis location I really struggle with,” she said. “I’m asking myself is this the best location … can we do better? I think we can.”

There were also four letters of opposition sent to council and Jeff Kromos of Northern Health related Chief Medical Health Officer Sandra Allison’s concern which also has to do with the store’s proximity to Prince George Secondary School.

“The potential problem that we see is that children and youth are in the mall … having a cannabis outlet in the mall would be more visible to children and youth in the area and be detrimental to youth,” he told council.

The province is proposing “to locate the approximately 372 m2 (4,000 sq. ft.) cannabis retail store within a portion of Pine Centre Mall, which was previously occupied by Sears,” reads a staff report to city council. “The size of the establishment and retail use is consistent with the retail stores on the subject property and surrounding area. Given its proposed location on the site, the use will be separated from the nearest residential neighbourhood by Westwood Drive and a surface parking lot (130m). In addition, the retail cannabis store is approximately one km from John McInnis and Peden Hill schools (separated by Pine Valley Golf Course and Ferry Avenue) and over 300 metres from Prince George Secondary School (separated by Massey Drive and a considerable change in topography).”

Coun. Garth Frizzell pointed out that the mall has a variety of stores, “ranking from the liquor store to teen shops to a cigar store.”

Council decided to move forward with the rezoning with Ramsay voting against.