Edmonton Public Library loses appeals to close down hashish shops


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Dustin Cook The Abbottsfield – Penny McKee Branch of the Edmonton Public Library at Riverview Crossing Mall is on Saturday, November 20, 2021 in Edmonton, approved by the District and Development Appeals Committee. Photo by Ian Kucerak Photo by Ian Kucerak /Mail media

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The Edmonton Public Library has lost three appeals to close the doors of cannabis stores within 200 meters of stores, the separation distance required by city ordinance.

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The Alberta Court of Appeal rulings published earlier this month dismiss the library’s lawsuits against cannabis business permits.

The locations at issue include a pot shop in the Heritage Valley Town Center, the same location as the EPL Heritage Valley branch. The library also made exceptions to a new underground store connected to the Central LRT Station just off the Stanley A. Milner Library and a cannabis store in the Rundle Center, just across from the Abbottsfield Penny McKee EPL branch in Riverview Crossing .

All three stores were previously granted a deviation from opening within 200 meters of a library location by the city’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB), contrary to Edmonton’s building regulations. EPL went to court in each case, arguing that the Board of Appeal failed to correctly interpret the required separation distance and placed the burden of proof on the library and not the developer.

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The main question in all three appeals revolved around the interpretation of the powers conferred on the appellate boards. Although development officers cannot issue permits that violate city regulations, the Appeals Committee has the power to approve deviations on a case-by-case basis.

“An appeal committee is authorized to issue a building permit for a planned development, even if it does not comply with the applicable zoning regulations, if, in the opinion of the appeal committee, the planned development would not inappropriately impair the convenience of the neighborhood or the use, enjoyment or value of neighboring ones Significantly affect or adversely affect properties, ”wrote Presiding Judge Catherine Fraser in her ruling.

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“I do not agree that the SDAB misinterpreted its power of variance.”

The Appellate Body took into account the actual distance from the cannabis store entrances to the library entrances, rather than the location boundaries by which the 200 meter distance was measured. In the Heritage Valley case, the distance is considered zero meters because both facilities are in the same complex, but the actual distance between the doors is 160 meters.

In its appeals, the library raised concerns that the stores are too close to places that are often used by children. Like libraries, city ordinances provide a mandatory separation distance between cannabis shops and schools, health centers, and community recreational facilities.

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“(EPL) claimed that the city’s policies to protect young children and vulnerable communities should be respected, especially as child and youth programs are offered all day and evening in the public library,” Fraser said in the decision.

In a brief response to Postmedia when asked about the court rulings, EPL CFO Deborah Rhodes said the organization respected the court’s results.

“EPL will work with the city administration in the coming weeks to determine our next steps,” she said in a statement.

Since the legalization of cannabis in October 2018, separation distances have been discussed in the city council.

In a February 2021 report, the city said that 15 percent of the 213 cannabis development permits issued at the time had been approved by the appeal committee to change the removal requirement. Nine approvals were refused by the board of directors.

“Overall, most licensed cannabis stores maintain the required separation distances, which has helped ensure safety in the building permit process, an evenly distributed opportunity for cannabis store locations, and a limited number of cannabis stores in a block,” the city said in its report .

The city said it will continue to monitor separation distances and conduct a review after the city zoning law renewal is implemented to see if they should be reduced or removed.

duscook@postmedia.com

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