The City of Windsor publicly announced Friday its opposition to the 545 Ouellette Ave. location proposed by London entrepreneur Kirk Anastasiadis to establish the city’s first cannabis retail store.
In a comprehensive report filed to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the city included comments from Windsor Police Service, as well as the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) — both of which also oppose the downtown location.
George Robinson, the City of Windsor’s revitalization and policy initiatives planner, said the City isn’t opposed to cannabis retail stores in general, just the proposed location.
“Taking the police department’s considerations, the health unit’s considerations, as well as other comments and reviewing them against current city policy, the city planner came to the determination that we’re going to go ahead and oppose this application,” said Robinson, explaining that the city also consulted with Windsor Fire & Rescue Services, the community health department, the legal department and the building department.
Policy quick notes
- As per AGCO policy, once a municipality has been informed that the province has received a retail store license application, the municipality has 15 days to submit a response detailing comments and concerns
- Windsor city council approved a bylaw in Jan. 21, 2019 giving permission to the city’s planning department to launch a review of any application for a cannabis retail store in Windsor
According to Robinson, key concerns include the location’s proximity to Immaculate Conception Catholic Elementary School, which is roughly 160 metres away, as well as the location’s proximity to the Transition Stability Centre, which is roughly 260 metres away.
As per the AGCO own’s requirements, cannabis retail stores are prohibited from operating within 150 metres of a school — a condition met by the proposed location.
In contrast, the city’s report looked at all properties within a 250-metre radius of the proposed location. WECHU’s own investigation examined properties within 500 metres of 545 Ouellette Ave.
Windsor police’s contribution to the city’s report highlighted concerns about “situation and criminogenic conditions.”
“Specifically, its physical placement and orientation in relation to surrounding land uses, amid these high vehicle and pedestrian loads, does present some anticipated public safety challenges that need to be addressed,” reads an excerpt from a Windsor police report included in the city’s submission to the AGCO.
In the report, Windsor Police Service also raised concerns about an alley near the location, “which has far less ‘visual accountability’ compared to the front of the store.”
“This abutting alley space needs to be physically adjusted/improved to elevate its safety and security accordingly,” the service said.
Despite the city’s opposition to the proposed location, both Robinson and the city’s own submission to the AGCO outline that officials have little power when it comes to the licensing process.
… The city planner came to the determination that we’re going to … oppose this application.– George Robinson, City of Windsor
“The AGCO is the provincial authority that licenses cannabis retail operators, authorizes cannabis retail locations and licenses senior store staff,” reads an excerpt from the city’s AGCO submission. “The City of Windsor will have no licensing authority and will have no recourse if the AGCO issues a license despite any objections by the municipality.”
Robinson added that the city always recommends that anyone interested in developing a business within Windsor consult with the municipality to ensure that all permits and licenses “or any other concerns that the city may have” are addressed.
“Cannabis retail is a new form of development that we haven’t really experienced here in Windsor before,” Robinson said. “So we’ll be monitoring it as far as the whole situation progresses.”
According to Robinson, the city will review each cannabis retail store application on a case-by-case basis, explaining that city officials look at submissions in a holistic way.
“The city administration does not oppose cannabis retail in general, but we are opposed to this specific location
Windsor entrepreneur says city’s opposition is ‘disheartening’
While the city awaits response from the AGCO, one Windsor entrepreneur said he’s not surprised by Windsor’s report.
“It was against all odds that Windsor would have won the lottery that actually saw a license to be allocated to us down here,” said Jonathon Liedtke.
It’s even better that the winner chose to want to open up in Windsor and chose a location in the downtown core, and it’s disheartening that the city is opposing it on the merits of its location.”
Liedtke also pointed out that both the federal and provincial government already have rules governing cannabis retail stores, saying that the city’s report “goes above and beyond what the province has asked for.”
“If you don’t want one of these being placed in the downtown core, I think the question really needs to be — where should they open?” he said.
At the same time, Liedtke raised concerns that future entrepreneurs looking at establishing cannabis retail stores in the city will be discouraged from applying as a result of the city’s vetting process.
“It might give them pause to question whether or not they want to go through the rigorous due diligence of finding a place, leasing the space, submitting the place, winning the license and then finding out that the city might be opposing you,” Liedtke said.
“It’s a great concern for the investment that people put down.”