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Banff accepting retail cannabis applications

BANFF – Those interested in opening a retail cannabis store in the tourist town can send their applications to the Town of Banff beginning Nov. 1. With recreational cannabis legal across Canada since Oct.

BANFF – Those interested in opening a retail cannabis store in the tourist town can send their applications to the Town of Banff beginning Nov. 1.

With recreational cannabis legal across Canada since Oct. 17, Parks Canada signed off on the land use bylaw amendment that sets up the legislative framework for cannabis retail shops in Banff on Tuesday (Oct. 23).

Randall McKay, the Town of Banff’s director of planning and development, said applications will not be accepted before Nov. 1, adding they can be submitted to the front counter at that time.

“The ‘first wave’ of applications must be submitted between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30,” said McKay, noting applications received after that won’t be processed until after the first set of applications are processed.

Business licence fees for cannabis retail stores have also been set now. It includes a base fee of $172 and a $2.04 per square footage retail sector charge that’s funnelled to Banff Lake Louise Tourism for destination marketing.

Council chose to align cannabis store business licence fees with other retail stores of similar complexity and scope such as liquor stores, but it doesn’t reflect additional costs to the municipality required to prepare for cannabis legalization.

Other business licence fee options included partial or full cost recovery, intended to recover costs related to communications, fire inspections, bylaw enforcement and policing associated with the licensing of and legalization of pot.

Prospective cannabis retailers, including Banffite Mark Jones, welcomed the fact that council decided against cost recovery fees, saying it would have been a big financial barrier to smaller businesses.

Those wanting to open up a cannabis store in Banff have been running up against “a lot of walls,” he said, noting the lower business licences won’t be a big financial barrier.

“The regulations are really putting restrictions on locations, and unfortunately, landlords haven’t been very open to it,” said Jones, noting he is aware of only one landlord in Banff prepared to entertain a cannabis store.

“If you want local people to open up family-owned businesses in this town, and not having big, massive conglomerates coming in and monopolizing, then lower business licence fees are one way we can really accomplish that.”

McKay said the issue of cost recovery fees was discussed with the Town’s legal counsel, who advised the Town would need to do an analysis of costs related to the services provided.

“The business licence fees can amount to a user fee or a regulatory fee, so long as there’s a reasonable connection between the fee and the cost to the municipality of providing the service,” he said.

“They need to be reflected in some kind of analysis, arguably by a third party provider, to prevent a legal challenge and ensure that we’re on solid ground.”

Coun. Peter Poole said he supported full cost recovery to recoup costs for exceptional planning department expenses, fire inspections and bylaw and police enforcement.

According to an administrative report, that would be in the range of about $104,000, which would amount to approximately $26,000 per business should Banff end up with four pot stores.

“I think this is reasonable,” he said, noting he doesn’t believe a business would legally challenge the fee given it’s small compared to what some landlords charge for key money in Banff.

Coun. Corrie DiManno said she supports a fee that mirrors other similar retail categories.

She said development permit fees will cover the costs of reviewing the application and doing an inspection.

“We’ve made room for cannabis retail in our commercial landscape and I think we have to do our best to set these potential businesses up for success,” she said.

“We’ve made a separation distance between cannabis retail stores and other barriers have been put in place, so the last thing I would like to see us do us do is put a financial barrier in place.”

Meanwhile, four people from Edmonton were given a first-time warning for cannabis consumption in the alley between Banff Avenue and Bear Street on the 100 block.

Smoking and vaping cannabis in public the Banff townsite is banned, restricted to only private property and residences. It’s permitted on national park lands, including campgrounds, although there are some restrictions.