Brad Styles and Cindy Pendergast of Happy Buddha Cannabis have filed a petition against the Town of Sidney after it denied their application for what would have been Sidney’s first pot shop. While the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCRB) requires opaque window coverings, Sidney’s development permit guidelines require transparent windows for Beacon Avenue. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Beacon Avenue pot shop dispute heading to court

The two sides are scheduled to meet in early January 2020 in a Victoria courtroom

The entrepreneurs taking legal action against the Town of Sidney over a denied pot shop on Beacon Avenue say they had no other choice, but added they have “no malice” towards the municipality.

“There is definitely a distaste for going down the road we have had to go down, but we did it because we just didn’t have any other recourse,” said Cindy Pendergast. “There is no malice involved, and I’m sure there is no malice involved [by] the Town of Sidney.”

She instead blamed the current dispute on uncertainties around cannabis retail regulations following legalization. “It’s new for everybody,” she said. “It’s new for the province, it’s new for the retailers, and it’s new for municipalities. We are just working through the process. In our case, it has been a little bit tougher than we have would have liked, but it’s just a matter of all us working through the process towards a common goal.”

RELATED: Hopeful Sidney pot shop owner challenges town in court after application denied

She and her business partner, husband Brad Styles, had submitted an application to open what would have been Sidney’s first pot shop, but found themselves denied following a 4-3 vote by council in late October.

The fate of the application hinged on reconciling two contrary requirements. While the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCRB) requires opaque window coverings, Sidney’s development permit guidelines require active — transparent windows — for Beacon Avenue, a point noted by councillors, who voted against the shop.

“This is about the look of downtown Beacon Avenue [as] an active and vibrant storefront,” said Coun. Barbara Fallot at the time. “I appreciate wholeheartedly your efforts to create a green wall in the window. Unfortunately, what I see is still a static display. It is not an active display.”

Pendergast’s lawyer told the Peninsula News Review earlier that Sidney cannot require Pendergast to do something that is against provincial law.

“A municipal government cannot require what a provincial government prohibits,” said John Alexander of Cox Taylor Lawyers in Victoria. “Provincial law trumps local municipal law.”

Pendergast said she and Styles acted in good faith when they submitted their application to Sidney after it had permitted pot stores on Becaon Avenue, a point implicitly backed by Coun. Peter Wainwright, who said during debate in October that Sidney been not been fair towards the applicants because staff, as well as councillors, had initially misunderstood LCRB’s requirements concerning opaque window coverings when they approved pot stores on Beacon Avenue in August following a public hearing. While he acknowledged that new information had come forward after the public hearing, it is still Sidney’s mistake.

Pendergast’s petition also reveals she and Styles had signed a fixed five-year lease, raising the question of whether the petition represents an attempt by the couple to save what could be saved. Pendergast said her landlord has been supportive.

“We have not tried to get out of the lease, because we do believe that we have a wonderful way forward if we can sit down at the table with Sidney and make some inroads,” she said.

Randy Humble, Sidney’s chief administrative officer, said Sidney has no comment at this time concerning the substance of the petition’s claim. “The Town, through their legal counsel, is in the process of preparing a response to the petition,” he said.

Vancouver-based Young Anderson will represent Sidney. “Like many other municipalities on Vancouver Island, the Town has utilized the services of Young Anderson for many years,” said Humble.

According to Pendergast, the two sides are scheduled to meet during the week of Jan. 13, 2020 for two days in a Victoria court.


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