County council discusses higher development permit fees for cannabis retail stores
Camrose County is currently investigating how much to charge for a development permit for cannabis retail stores. File photo/Postmedia Network
Higher development permit fees for cannabis retail stores in Camrose County will reflect the extra cost of processing such permits.
The question is how high to set these fees.
A $300 and $5,000 fee — up from the standard $150 discretionary permit fee — were discussed in separate motions at the July 10 council meeting. Councillors expressed interest in raising the fee to cover costs and keep the County in line with other municipalities; however, both motions were lost as administration was directed to investigate the development permit fees from neighbouring municipalities and return with recommendations to a future meeting.
Administration recommended doubling the standard fee to cover the additional staff time and resources required to process a cannabis retail sales development proposal, as these must be advertised prior to and following county approval, whereas development proposals typically only require advertising post-approval.
A $300 increase would be consistent with the county’s practice of covering application costs but would be significantly smaller than fees in other municipalities, such as Saskatoon’s $20,000 licensing fee.
Councillor Cindy Trautman expressed support for increasing the fee beyond $300 so as to align the County’s policy with that of other municipalities.
“If we’re only charging $300 it looks like we’re going out for that particular business,” she said.
Meanwhile, county administrator Paul King expressed concern too steep of a fee would discourage business.
The motion to double the fee was voted down and councillor Brian Willoughby proposed a new motion that the cannabis retail sales development permit fee be set at $5,000.
Administration was unable to provide data on the average fee charged by other municipalities, but indicated some may be charging larger fees as a means of addressing other legalization-related costs, such as policing. This would not have a major long-term impact for Camrose County, however, as they do not currently charge annual business licensing; therefore, the fee would be a one-off.
King called the $5,000 fee a knee-jerk reaction.
“To think we’re going to fund policing and that this is going to require a ton of additional policing I think is not correct. This is a business, a retail business no different than if you wanted to open a grocery store in Round Hill,” he said, adding it would be difficult to defend if challenged when all other development fees are set to cover the costs associated with the development.
The County’s only development fee higher than $300 is for natural resource extraction, which is set at $2,000 to offset the cost of staff resources required to review these proposals.
“It is federal legislation and it’s approved for sale in the province of Alberta. That’s fine, you can say the $5,000, we won’t have any stores here, people are just going to buy it online,” he said. “A storefront in Round Hill might bring us $5,000 in tax revenue, but no storefront in Round Hill because the permit fee is $5,000 … brings [nothing.]”
Councillor Doug Lyseng expressed preference for the $300 fee.
“I just feel that it’s a shot in the dark at this point. I’d rather go with being conservative at the $300 and then if we see other municipalities are way up there and we’re out of line, we can adjust in the fall.”
Also at the July 10 council meeting, Camrose County Council gave the third and final reading to the amended discharging firearms bylaw, thereby bringing it into alignment with the provincial Wildlife Act.
Whereas the Wildlife Act allows the discharge of firearms at 200 metres from a residence, the previous, outdated bylaw restricted the discharge of firearms in any area of Camrose County subdivided by plan into lots or blocks, or both.
Camrose County Protective Services Manager Mike Kuzio said in June that the amended bylaw will be easier to enforce, as it mirrors what provincial legislation allows and prohibits.