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Council votes to freeze new cannabis growing application until further research is complete

October 9, 2020   ·   0 Comments

New Tecumseth voted 7-3 last Thursday to stop new cannabis growing operation applications until a study reviewing the plant’s production is conducted by a consultant for roughly $20,000.

The action was made through imposing an Interim Control Bylaw (ICBL), valid September 28, 2020 to September 28, 2021, regarding cannabis operations within the municipality. This allows Town staff to conduct additional research before they finish updating the Town’s comprehensive zoning bylaw to include cannabis.

Ward 6 Councillor Stephanie MacLellan, who voted against the motion, said cannabis is fairly straightforward and the regulations needed to keep growing operations away from the general public or areas of concerns can be achieved through updating the comprehensive zoning bylaw, which is already three quarters of the way complete.

She said there are concerns if applications are denied during the implementation of an ICBL because they can be appealed to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board (NFPPB), leading to potential litigation.

“We could have five, 10, 20 [growers] take us to the Normal Farm Practices Board. This could get very, very costly for our municipality, I think we take the opportunity which is within our zoning bylaw and put in the rules and regulations… so that we can control smell, security and setbacks and things of that nature,” MacLellan noted.

“Plus, staff has been working towards that [zoning bylaw] because that’s what we initially asked them to do. I just think this waiting a year, the bill could add up and it could be very costly to the municipality.”

Ward 3 Councillor Paul Foster noted that there’s very little direction coming from the provincial and federal government on how to manage the growth of cannabis within the municipality.

He suggested that if the ICBL isn’t put into place then Council may find itself at hearings because it didn’t complete its due diligence with respect to cannabis growing operations.

“We’re not using this as a tool to escape applications, we’re using this as an intelligent tool and as a tool available to use, in order that we actually give additional thought and consideration to cannabis legislation,” Foster remarked.

“Hopefully we will limit our exposure to litigation because of the time and effort we put into it.”

New Tecumseth’s Planning Director, Bruce Hoppe, said the ICBL will allow for additional research into what other municipalities and other levels of government can do as far as regulating odour and what the setback for grow-ops should be in rural areas.

“We may want to reach out to an agricultural expert, a agrologist who may be able to suggest a defensible and reasonable number,” he noted.

Ward 5 Councillor Donna Jebb said by hiring a consultant to conduct additional research, the Town will be better equipped to complete its zoning bylaw.

“It’s just going to give us that extra time to do it properly, that we’re going to have it done the right way for our municipality,” she said.

“Right now, if we don’t do the Interim Control Bylaw, we have no rules, we have no tools, we have no regulation to work with, we’re just kind of flying by the seat of our pants.”

Meanwhile, the Town’s largest problem when it comes to cannabis production is growers who operate outside of its bylaws.

Ward 7 Councillor Shira Harrison McIntyre, who opposed the motion, noted that even with the ICBL they’re not going to stop the people who are growing cannabis through loopholes, operating outside of the Town’s regulations.

“This study is not going to help with the biggest problems… so my concern is that we’re kicking this down the road because it feels overwhelming at this point, but that really we’re not dealing with what is the bigger issues for us which is something that we don’t have control over,” she said.

“We’re trying to get control, desperately trying to grasp onto something and that this is our attempt to try and get back control but in reality it’s not going to give us any more control over the situations that are wrong and illegal,” Harrison McIntyre continued.

“We should work through this in the way that we have been working through it but taking the approach that, when we are offered legal operations, we work with that person.”

Ward 4 Councillor Fran Sainsbury said the first two growing operations the Town of New Tecumseth has on the books have both had problems and she didn’t want to see additional problematic growing operations put forward until their zoning bylaw and ICBL are complete.

“We would like to work with the federal and provincial government’s because there [are] loopholes and it’s their job to close them and that way, then the police would have some ability to do something, the bylaw officers would be safer when they have to look after these situations,” she noted.

Meanwhile, MacLellan said the federal regulations around cannabis are already extensive for those who do it legally and she sees the ICBL as delaying the inevitable.

“This Council isn’t going to make this all the sudden illegal; it’s legal. It’s time to face it and move forward and stop putting it off because as far as I’m concerned it is a stall tactic, we’re not going to find out anything new, we’re not going to have any scientific breakthroughs,” she said.

Ward 2 Councillor Michael Beattie, who opposed the motion, said the ICBL seems like “overkill” because the zoning bylaw is already being conducted and is nearly complete.

He also noted applications that already came in prior to the ICBL implementation will have to be processed and move through the appropriate planning approvals.

“Council still has the ability, without an Interim Control Bylaw, to stickhandle the applications and we can still approve or deny any application. We can go to Site Plan [Control], we have plenty of options, this feels excessive and unnecessary and expensive. It feels like duplication of work,” he remarked.

“Do we have no faith in the ability of the people that we hire [Town staff] to do a comprehensive zoning bylaw update? I certainly do,” Beattie continued.

“This isn’t going away, so playing ostrich for a year, with the bylaw isn’t going to make this issue any better.”

Jebb argued that Council isn’t playing ostrich but instead being prudent by looking at how it makes rules for its zoning bylaw.

The cost to hire a consultant for the ICBL will be included in the Town’s 2021 budget.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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