During the Town of Inuvik’s third and final reading to amend a zoning by-law for cannabis related businesses on June 27, a number of residents voiced their concerns over the possibility of a cannabis retail store setting up shop in the downtown core and near the East Three Schools.
“Part of our mandate is ensuring a safe, learning environment for our students. We feel very strongly about a buffer zone around the school,” said Tony Devlin, the chair of the Inuvik District Education Authority.
In the case of this zoning by-law amendment, a buffer zone or exclusion zone refers to an area that is visually and acoustically sheltered off from the operations of a cannabis retail store.
The Town of Inuvik prepared a number of maps containing proposed buffer zones around worship centres, schools, public parks and town facilities. Each zone surrounding said institutions were larger than 45 metres in diameter, with the East Three Schools having the biggest buffer zone at 190 metres.
However, the concern from the public was that the school’s buffer zone did not encompass much of the area surrounding the schools, particularly the nearby downtown core.
“With a location that might be close to the school, we are afraid that the propensity for marijuana smoke might be increased a bit if there was an outlet that was close to the school that people were coming out to and sparking up right outside,” said Devlin.
He added that there’s line of sight knowing that such a business exists when located nearby the school’s grounds.
“Anything that might affect some of the five senses of our children we think might affect them negatively,” he said.
David MacMartin, the director of intergovernmental relations with the Gwich’in Tribal Council, said that the larger the school’s buffer zone, the better.
“If we were drawing a map from scratch, we would draw an exclusion zone from Arctic Digital to the hospital. That may not be what others are looking for, but in our view that’s an approach that would meet the goal of excluding cannabis retail operations from areas where the public are congregating,” said MacMartin.
Reilly Featherstone, the pastor of Inuvik’s First Bible Baptist Church, said that having a cannabis retail store set up shop in the downtown core would not add any value to the area.
“I’ve been to a lot of downtowns where they’re very nice, clean and safe feeling,” said Featherstone. “But our downtown, with other businesses that are located there, don’t provide a safe environment often times, and don’t provide a clean place for our young people to be.”
He added that the benefits of having the store located outside of the downtown core will prevent the area from being “more dangerous and more dirty.”
“There are liquor stores outside of town. Stanton’s grocery store is outside of town…One thing I also don’t see around those places are kids or teenagers hanging out either,” he said. “I don’t think it would be bad for a retail cannabis store to be outside of town as well.”
Following public discussions, town council passed a motion to amend the zoning by-law to include a map that contains the exclusion zones mentioned above.