GOING GREEN: Lake Country council approves cannabis shop

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LAKE COUNTRY - Rumours of Lake Country's first cannabis retail store's demise were greatly exaggerated.

Weeks after rejecting Compass Cannabis' bid to open the first cannabis retail shop in the Okanagan, the District of Lake Country Council changed its mind at their meeting last night, Dec. 18, permitting the store to open at Turtle Bay Crossing.

In a unanimous decision, council voted on a bylaw variance that allows Starbuds — the retail division of Compass Cannabis — to operate at the strip mall. The decision is a far cry from the one they made at their Dec. 5 meeting, where council voted against the variance 4-3.

Celine Fitzgerald, owner of the Lake Country branch of Compass Cannabis' retail franchise, attended the Dec. 5 meeting, but didn't speak up for her store, stating that the process confused her. She requested a second chance to advocate for her business and council agreed to another reading of the bylaw.

Fitzgerald, Starbuds representatives and community members voiced their reasons for supporting the retail store, and Coun. Bill Scarrow was impressed by the turnout at last night's meeting.

"I didn't see any empty seats," he said.

The variance reduced the required "buffer" zone for the retail store. Compass Cannabis currently operates a medicinal clinic at the Turtle Bay location. It plans to convert the spot into a retail store. However, it's within close proximity of a daycare.

The Lake Country bylaw requires all cannabis retail stores to operate at 400 metres away from schools, daycares, and similar areas. Starbuds' new bylaw variance reduces their buffer zone to 150 metres, allowing them to stay at Turtle Bay.

Coun. Blair Ireland voted against the bylaw variance at the first reading, but supported it last night. Ireland, who supported cannabis legalization, said his original vote was influenced by a desire to support local businesses over franchises, but after talking with Fitzgerald, he changed his vote.

"They seem to be good community people," he said. "I was glad [the bylaw] came back. It's always a good idea to have a long look."

Coun. Scarrow supported the variance during both readings. He's pleased to see the retail store primed for public consumption.

"I've been consistent in my message," he said. "It can be an economic driver for our community."

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