Sechelt councillors were confused about the intent of a new controlled substance bylaw and decided to send it back to staff at second reading for more clarification during their Nov. 7 council meeting.
“I would like to have a better sense of what are we really trying to achieve,” said Mayor John Henderson, questioning what exactly the District was trying to regulate with the new bylaw. “Is it controlled substances or is it mould?”
The new controlled substances bylaw was before council for three readings Nov. 7. It allows the municipality authority to deal with mould and building code issues found in homes with grow ops or other controlled substance operations.
The bylaw comes with potentially huge fines for homeowners caught in contravention, and it would be the police who would alert the District to potential bylaw breakers, councillors were told.
“Typically what happens is that the police will identify a grow op and bylaw enforcement might help them with that, fire might help them with that, but the police would identify and they would have to monitor that to make sure that, in fact, their suspicions were correct. Then they’d go in and do what they call the bust, and immediately after that, invite the municipality to attend the site and to put up the notices to say this site can’t be occupied until it’s been cleaned up,” said assistant corporate officer Gerry van der Wolf. “Then it’s up to the municipality to follow up with the property owner to make sure that it’s cleaned up according to the bylaw, and then there’s a certificate issued eventually to say that now it can be re-inhabited.”
The bylaw doesn’t discriminate between legal and illegal grow ops; however, van der Wolf said legal grow ops wouldn’t likely gain the attention of police, who generally start the process.
Coun. Darnelda Siegers moved first reading of the bylaw, saying it would protect future homeowners and renters from moving into homes with unresolved mould and electrical issues, which may have just been “painted over.”
Coun. Chris Moore felt the bylaw was picking on pot growers and made it clear he would not support it.
“You don’t need to have a grow op to have mould and mildew in houses. There’s a lot of houses around right now that have real issues with mould and mildew in them that have no direct bearing to cultivating marijuana,” Moore said. “So if we want to go after all mould and mildew, we should just make a bigger net and make it illegal for anyone to have mould and mildew in their house.”
He noted there are a “huge number” of people in the Sechelt community who hold medical marijuana licences.
“We’re going to get in their way with this one too, there’s no question. There will once again be challenges on the Charter of Rights and we will have challenges because we are going to get in their face on an issue I don’t think we have any place to be,” Moore said.
Henderson admitted he was “struggling” with the bylaw, saying he wanted to ensure constituents were safe, but that even keeping a home’s windows closed could result in mould issues.
Coun. Mike Shanks moved to table first reading in order to get more clarification on the bylaw, but no one was willing to second.
“OK. I guess we’ll be proceeding in ignorance then,” Shanks said.
When first reading was called, it passed, with councillors Alice Lutes, Doug Hockley, Shanks and Siegers in favour and Tom Lamb, Moore and Henderson opposed.
More discussion followed with Lamb questioning the potentially broad net of the bylaw.
“It’s too wide and too onerous,” he said.
Siegers asked that in light of Moore’s and Lamb’s concerns the bylaw be sent back to staff for clarification on “what it does and doesn’t cover.”
Moore asked again for statistics demonstrating the need for a controlled substance bylaw before council agreed to defer second reading for more clarification.