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Published on Monday, March 5, 2018

Is Upper Middle Shopping Centre on 'short list'?

Councillors concerned about possible Oakville cannabis store location

Is Upper Middle Shopping Centre on 'short list'?
Metroland file photo
Councillor concerned about possible Oakville cannabis store location
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

Where exactly will Oakville’s future cannabis retail store(s) be located?

Several local councillors expressed deep concern about the possible answers to this question during a Feb. 27 meeting.

Ward 6 town Coun. Tom Adams noted the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), a provincial organization tasked with finding cannabis store locations prior to legalization, appears to be considering some locations he finds troubling.

“Subsequent to meeting with our staff I understand they have been looking at places that I don’t think are appropriate,” said Adams.

“They’ve been in contact with the operators of the Upper Oakville Shopping Centre at Eighth Line and Upper Middle and have advised them that they are on the ‘short list.’ I want to say that this location is surrounded on four sides by residential and is 850 metres from Iroquois Ridge High School, an easy walk.”
— Tom Adams
Ward 6 Councillor

“They’ve been in contact with the operators of the Upper Oakville Shopping Centre at Eighth Line and Upper Middle and have advised them that they are on the ‘short list.’ I want to say that this location is surrounded on four sides by residential and is 850 metres from Iroquois Ridge High School, an easy walk,” Adams said.

Adams said that location also has a history of youth loitering and late night drinking.

He said town staff had met with the OCRC and suggested a number of possible locations for the cannabis store. The Upper Oakville Shopping Centre was not among these top suggestions, which included areas near the Oakville GO, Burloak, Palermo, Dorval Crossing and Uptown Core at Trafalgar Road and Dundas Street.

Council has yet to be consulted on these possibilities.

Town staff also suggested the Downtown Oakville, Kerr Street and Bronte Village areas would not be appropriate locations.

The minister of finance and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) announced in December that Oakville had been selected as one of 40 municipalities to have one or more standalone cannabis retail stores this summer.

The province outlined that it would work closely with municipalities to consider community priorities when choosing store locations, including ensuring these retail locations are not placed in close proximity to schools.

Given the way the location siting process appears to be going Adams called for it to be put on hold until more information becomes available regarding a number of questions surrounding legalization.

He brought forward two motions — one calling for the town to inform the province that Oakville is not a willing host to a cannabis store, while the other said that if the OCRC insists on locating a store in Oakville it should delay in order to provide transparent public consultation on their location proposal to ensure it is not in close proximity to schools or residences.

Adams argued these motions would not hurt local access to marijuana as the province has selected Burlington and Mississauga as locations for cannabis stores and noted online sales would be available following legalization.

“I don’t think we are ready for this and I think we need more time to consider this,” said Adams.

Not all councillors were in agreement with Adams’s sentiments.

While Ward 1 Coun. Sean O’Meara agreed more information was needed concerning the legalization and store location process, he took issue with the motion, which would label the town an unwilling host of a cannabis store.

He voiced concerns that any obstruction to the arrival of legal cannabis in Oakville could aid the circulation of illegal and potentially laced marijuana.

Ward 4 Coun. Allan Elgar took a similar position.

“I had the privilege of speaking with Bill Blair, former chief of the (Toronto Police Service), and after listening to him I was shocked by what he was able to tell us about drugs, drugs in the schools, drugs everywhere and how much safer it will be when they are controlled by Canada and by the provinces,” said Elgar, adding, “I want to make sure we don’t say we don’t want it in Oakville. In fact if you are a parent in Oakville I think you would want this so your kids are not buying it off street corner people.”

That said Elgar noted it is important the cannabis stores are not located near schools and called for the matter to be referred to a later date so town staff could put together a report concerning the work they are doing with the province to find locations for the store(s).

Ward 5 Coun. Marc Grant said more conversations are needed with the province about this subject before the process is allowed to go any further.

Ward 5 Coun. Jeff Knoll also had concerns about delaying action on this matter.

“This is a timely issue and I think referral is not prudent at this point because while we are fiddling Rome could be burning in terms of the siting of a location,” he said.

“There are very few LCBO locations or for that matter retail locations in town that are not in very close proximity to schools. I think we need to put a very serious line in the sand to say ‘We need to fully understand what your game plan is here in terms of retail distribution.’ Make sure that is established now so we don’t lose out on any opportunity to make those comments later on.”

Ultimately the majority of council voted to refer discussion of the location siting for a cannabis retail store to the Planning and Development Council meeting of March 19.

Discussion concerning Oakville’s willingness to be a host to a cannabis store continued with Oakville Mayor Rob Burton noting that council saying it is not a willing host would not block the cannabis store from coming or even delay that process.

Passing a motion outlining some of the concerns council has about legalization, however, would strengthen his hand in future discussions on the subject at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

“It speaks to ‘You’ve got to pony up with the rules before we embrace,’ ” said Burton.

After coming to a consensus to remove the words “not a willing host” from the motion council voted unanimously to ask the province to satisfy financial, location, framework, social and enforcement questions prior to choosing a cannabis retail store location in Oakville.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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