‘This is a business that will open’

Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin gives a presentation during his annual ward meeting at the Windsor Public Library central branch, October 8, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

A Windsor city councillor is crying foul over a report from the administration opposing the site of a new downtown cannabis store.

The city sent a letter off last week to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) opposing a new pot shop downtown. That’s bringing a lot of questions from Ward 3 Councillor¬†Rino Bortolin. A businessman was granted a licence by the AGCO to open a retail pot business at 545 Ouellette Ave., in the heart of the downtown core.

The letter, sent by city planner Thom Hunt, points to a recommendation from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit not to put pot shops within 500 metres of an addiction treatment centre. The letter also cited the Windsor Police Service, which raised public safety concerns while not opposing the location of the store.

Bortolin told BlackburnNewsWindsor.com that it’s time to reconsider a motion approved by City Council earlier this year that gave the task to the city planner.

“Essentially there would be almost nowhere in the city of Windsor, definitely nowhere downtown, that would be allowed to have a store,” said Bortolin. “So my concern is that administration, our planner, took the criteria from the health unit over the criteria that we explicitly laid forth.”

Among the issues raised by the city planner to the AGCO are those concerning access to cannabis by those who are underage, the likelihood of unlawful activities related to cannabis, and general concerns about public safety. The Transition Stability Centre is the closest treatment facility to the planned site, just 263 metres away, according to the city’s letter. Immaculate Conception Elementary School is 158 metres away.

Bortolin is in Calgary this week attending a transit conference, and he has had an opportunity to visit some of the city’s retail cannabis stores. He said those in Windsor worried about what those stores may bring to downtown should look at what Calgary has done.

“They are regular retail stores,” said Bortolin. “Clean, well-kept and not attracting undesirables. I went in and talked to people, talked to people on the streets, and talked to others in the city. Nobody thinks twice about them. so we need to get past it.”

The AGCO has the final say on the location of stores, and¬†ultimately Bortolin doesn’t think the letter will hurt the application to open the pot shop on Ouellette.

“This is a business that will open,” said Bortolin. “If we continue to fear-monger, if we continue to focus on the negative, we will make it harder and harder for that operator to succeed. We need to get away from that, we need to understand that cannabis stores are just retail outlets.”

Bortolin is expected to bring up his concerns at city council’s next meeting on Monday night.

-With files from Adelle Loiselle