Northeast Calgary residents want cannabis stores kept out of neighbourhoods
Dozens packed a city appeal hearing to try and stop stores from opening in Taradale and Saddle Ridge
The fight to stop cannabis stores from opening in two northeast Calgary neighbourhoods will continue into 2019 as a group of residents appeals the city's approval of the retail outlets.
Around 40 community members backing the two separate appeals packed a city meeting in the northeast Thursday and say they're determined to keep fighting against the operations. They say the stores will have a negative impact on their communities.
One proposed store would be located in a new strip mall development on 80th Avenue N.E. The other is a short drive away on Saddlestone Drive N.E.
"We have a concern about community safety and our family and kids," said Saddle Ridge resident Manjit Jaswal, who is heading the appeal process for the Saddle Ridge store.
There was some confusion at the hearing, with the developer's lawyer believing the appeal had been dropped after meeting with members of the community association in Saddle Ridge, but Jaswal says it's very much alive.
"They should be in commercial places, not in residential places, that's why we are opposing it," said Jaswal.
"It's everybody, everybody's together, we are as a community not individual or Sikh or Hindu, every community is together," said Rakesh Narula, who is leading the appeal against the city's approval for changing the use of a store in Taradale to a cannabis retail outlet.
"We will prepare the case fully, the community will come forward and we will represent the case with a lawyer on Feb. 7," said Narula.
"Forty-five hundred signatures have been gathered against these two stores," said Hardyal (Happy) Mann, who is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in the northeast riding of Calgary-Falconridge and is part of the group appealing the stores.
"These stores are in the middle of a highly densely populated area with kids and parks and spaces for seniors there as well," said Mann.
"There are numerous residents who have concerns about these stores living within 300 metres. The matter should be dealt with for humanity's sake as well, there are lots of young families there as well," Mann said.
The group says it respects the fact the federal government has taken the step to legalize cannabis for recreational use but there are concerns, like second-hand smoke and enforcement of smoking in public, that need to be addressed.
"This is not a perspective of the business alone that we have to look at, we have to look at humanity at large as well and the aftermath. It's not any issue against the business, this is impacting the community at large at this has to be heard," said Mann.
The two appeals won't be heard till February 2019 due to a backlog of cases, which is frustrating for one the lawyers involved.
"Cases are being scheduled six months down the road for people who invested money to open Oct. 17. That's a disaster," said lawyer for the company behind the Saddle Ridge store Hugh Ham.
"They're business people. They're not people involved in planning approvals so this is an unexpected process outside of their experience," said Ham.
Ham said his client thought she'd achieved a resolution after meeting with other members of the community only to find out the fight is continuing.
The prospect of cannabis stores opening close to homes is causing concern for many in the northeast. Last week members of the Pakistani community held an education and information event with guest talks by a local Imam and a psychologist. A similar event is being planned for next month by a different Muslim group.
Organizers of the two appeals say they now have more time to build on support in the community and be better organized, complete with lawyers, for their next date in February.
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