Proposed cannabis control bylaw back before Council later this spring

Cannabis. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

OLIVIA TIMM

FOR THE GAZETTE

Safety and site control details for cannabis production, processing and zoning will come back to Prince Edward County Council in June.

After passing an interim control bylaw last year on cannabis production and processing facilities, a motion was passed to bring a staff report forward to include impacts and regulations of cannabis operations. 

At Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, several councillors felt that more time was needed to iron out details for council and also for the community.

Coun. Kate MacNaughton asked for more details on adequate enforcement tools.

James Griffin, County Planner, said the site controls on future processing facilities will shed some light on safety tools.

“In regards to light pollution, the big regulator there is going to be site plan control. Any cannabis production facility, new or expanding, would be required to enter into site plan control,” Griffin explained.

He said any facility lighting will be required to be facing the ground and not have any negative effect on the neighbouring property.

Ernie Margetson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“We also require an illumination plan which would examine all lighting and there would also be an agreement to say the lighting will not be a nuisance,” he added.

In terms of location setbacks, Griffin said facilities in Prince Edward County would follow outlined setbacks across the province. Within an industrial area, if there are odour controls, 70 metres is the setback from a residential setting. In a rural area, he explained, it would be 150 metres, and if a facility does not have adequate odour controls, the setback would be 300 metres. 

“If someone does not comply, we can charge through the zoning bylaw,” he said. “Like anything that does not comply with the zoning bylaw, they would be given a time period to comply, and if it is still not done, then they would be charged and taken to court to comply. I do believe that using the zoning bylaw as an enforcement mechanism will do the job just fine and do it very well.”

Coun. Ernie Margetson felt that a baseline of 70 metres may not be enough, using MacDonald Drive as an example where a residential dwelling is right across the road, 150 metres would make more sense. 

Griffing argued the 70 metres buffer would be appropriate, because most facilities will have odour controls and would ensure it is done properly,

“The 70 metres was chosen for the industrial setting as we want to encourage processing here,” he said. “Done properly, cannabis production facilities can be very successful and oftentimes bring in employment opportunities to the area. I believe if done properly, a 70 metres setback is quite appropriate.”

Coun. Stewart Bailey asked once everything is in place, if there is a way for council to be aware of production locations and the licensing in order to communicate with the public.

Griffin explained the onsite plan controls will help the Development Services Department and County Council identify locations, registered and non-registered, but that master growers through Health Canada do not need to notify the municipality of production details.

Coun. Bill Roberts compared cannabis operations to American municipalities, noting many areas are “pretty aggressive about cannabis businesses in their community.”

“They are providing funding for things like affordable housing, education grants, forgivable student loans, for members of the community. Is there any way we can go down that path or are we restricted in that regard?” Roberts asked.

Griffin said that could certainly be reviewing at the time when the cost recovery amendment to fees and charges is reviewed. 

“Like anything, I think it could be reviewed through development charges but would need to be specific in the bylaw, but it goes beyond the purview of the zoning bylaw,” he said.

Griffin said County staff will review this and bring it back to Council for discussion.

Coun. Janice Maynard recognized this is a cutting edge move for the County and to find good comparators that are at the same place is difficult.

“I was looking at first to be a little more upfront, a little bolder, and perhaps have 70 metres start with maximum restrictions until we feel things out. I will say though that I am not against cannabis production,” she said. “Yes, we have the zoning amendment and I do appreciate and understand why we want to use site plan controls but because those have not been articulated as of yet, all of the details of what we can and can not do or what controls we would have, I think that should be something that should come back to us before we pass this bylaw. We have some time yet before the interim runs out.”

Griffin said the site plan controls will incorporate solutions for noise, odour, security, public safety, and vulnerable aquifer.

He said anticipating these facilities will use a lot of water, hydro-geological and water studies would be required if it is within the municipal water servicing area, and a report would include the appropriate water supply for processing.

The zoning amendment for cannabis production and processing will be referred back to staff in order to create a more detailed description of the onsite plan controls and there will be further public consultation through the Have Your Say portal.

Proposed considerations for setbacks will also be reviewed and staff are to engage in consultation with the Prince Edward County Ontario Provincial Police detachment regarding potential public safety concerns and investigate potential water contamination due to cannabis operations.

More details are set to come back to a future Committee of the Whole meeting by the end of June.