Zoning changed to allow retail cannabis store at 52 Simcoe Street

52 Simcoe Street, Tillsonburg. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

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A zoning application to permit a retail cannabis store at 52 Simcoe Street, Tillsonburg, was approved Monday night at Tillsonburg Council’s online planning meeting. A bylaw for it to take effect will be introduced August 10, and if passed, it will be followed by a 20-day appeal period.

“The town’s zoning bylaw does not have a separate definition for a cannabis retail outlet,” said Eric Gilbert, Oxford County’s senior planner at Monday’s online meeting. “It would be considered a retail store, in the general sense, and as noted a retail store is not permitted in the service commercial zone.

“In this case, although this site could likely function well for a retail store, staff have the opinion that the proposed establishment does not maintain the general intent and purpose of the official plan, as the size of the retail store at 2,500 square feet is significantly less than the 3,500 square foot general threshold… smaller than this threshold are expected to locate in the central area – or provide justification why the proposed retail store cannot be located in this area.”

Councillor Deb Gilvesy asked Gilbert about zoning across the street at the Epple Plaza, 51 Simcoe Street.

“That existing site would be considered grandfathered if it’s in an existing service commercial plaza which has a wider range of uses, including office uses,” said Gilbert.

Councillor Pete Luciani asked if the vape store, also located at the 51 Simcoe Street plaza, was grandfathered.

“I don’t know the exact date when that came in,” said Gilbert.

“I would suggest just based on local experience the M&M store has been a tenant since the infancy (of the plaza) and the vape has been extremely recent,” said Mayor Stephen Molnar.

Councillor Penny Esseltine noted that an earlier item on the agenda was approved – two new 10,000 square foot plaza buildings at the north end of town, with retail stores less than 3,500 square feet.

“Are we saying it’s okay at the north end but not okay here for a similar thing?” asked Esseltine.

Gilbert noted the size of new retail units at 678-680 Broadway would need to be at least 3,500 square feet.

“Are there any other municipalities in Oxford County that have a cannabis specific zone?” asked Molnar.

“There’s specific (zoning) for production, but for retail sale, no,” said Gilbert.

“(Retail) cannabis is relatively new, the legalization is new, the Alcohol Gaming Commission’s licensing requirements is even newer, and then this application is here,” said Molnar. “And I’m trying to decipher the automatic ‘retail’ based on ‘there is no other classification for it.’”

Molnar asked if a site ‘cannabis specific’ use could be added, which Gilbert confirmed could be done.

“I did look actually look to the downtown core for this location,” said applicant Jason Kane, who operates a business (Dominion Lending Centre) at 18 Oxford Street. “But one of the key components that the AGCO do require is that there is no tenancy above the actual location, more for the security of individuals and the added security that we’re required to implement into these facilities in order to be an actual retail cannabis store. The 52 Simcoe St. location, it is actually 4,300 square feet, if we lease the whole building facility. I mentioned to Eric our initial use would be the top floor, which is around 2,500 square feet. We do have access for storage that we would be using in the basement for some of the product and the… secure room, to protect the product.”

Deputy Mayor Dave Beres proposed a resolution to approve the zone change to permit a site-specific retail cannabis use. It was carried by council.