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Draft pot bylaw sets 8-hectare lot size

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Medical marijuana production facilities within the Sunshine Coast Regional District will be restricted to rural lots that are eight hectares or larger and Hillside Industrial Park under a proposed bylaw drafted in advance of Health Canada’s new licensing system, set to take effect in April 2014.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) has drafted a bylaw that would permit medical marijuana production facilities only in Hillside Industrial Park and rural lots that are eight hectares (19.8 acres) or more.

Under the proposed bylaw, rural properties would also be subject to 60-metre setbacks from all parcel lines.

The draft bylaw follows feedback from the SCRD’s advisory planning commissions, the majority of which recommended prohibiting medical marijuana facilities in residential areas.

In a staff report presented at the Nov. 21 planning and development committee meeting, planning technician Lesley-Ann Staats said a four-hectare minimum lot size was initially considered for the rural two (RU2) zone and Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

The four-hectare analysis identified 234 private parcels zoned RU2 and 84 private parcels in the ALR, but “many of these parcels are located within residential neighbourhoods, so a second analysis was completed,” Staats said.

Using the eight-hectare minimum, the department counted 143 private parcels zoned RU2 and 26 private parcels in the ALR.

These parcels, Staats said, “are mostly on the outskirts, farther away from residential neighbourhoods.”

Since the province’s Agricultural Land Commission has ruled that medical marijuana production is a farm use in the ALR, the SCRD “can’t say that it’s not,” Steve Olmstead, general manager of planning and development, told directors.

“Prohibiting the use may be something that’s crossing a boundary, in terms of our jurisdiction. Lot size and setbacks seem to be regulation, rather than prohibition,” Olmstead said.

Under the bylaw, he said, applicants who meet the zoning requirements could simply obtain a building permit, while those who have a large enough property but cannot meet the setbacks could apply for a variance.

For non-conforming properties, he said, “if it’s an appropriate location, a site-specific rezoning could be applied for,” which would involve a public hearing process and ultimately a board decision.

Committee chair Donna Shugar asked directors if they were “happy” with the eight-hectare minimum rural lot size.

“I think four hectares — 10 acres — is actually fine if you have setbacks of 60 metres. That’s quite a big setback,” Shugar said.

With the eight-hectare minimum, she said, “In Roberts Creek the only property it could be grown on is Camp Byng.”

Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis said he viewed the 60-metre setback as punitive, as half of that distance would probably be adequate.

Other directors, however, opted to go with staff’s recommendation to set an eight-hectare minimum lot size in RU2 and RU3 zones with 60-metre setbacks, noting that people on smaller lots could apply for rezoning while those who need smaller setbacks could apply for a variance.

The committee endorsed the recommendation, and the bylaw was scheduled to go before the board for first reading on Nov. 28.

In reviewing industrial zones, Staats said the industrial one (I1) zone for light industry was deemed “the most appropriate zone for the use,” but staff ruled it out because many of the 17 properties now zoned I1 are too close to residential areas.

On the other hand, she said, Hillside Industrial Park’s I7 zone “appears to be in an appropriate location for the use, away from residential neighbourhoods, mostly on larger parcels, and on a group of parcels within the same land use zone.”

For the I7 zone, the bylaw proposes a 7.5-metre setback from all property lines.

The bylaw was drafted in advance of new federal regulations, set to take effect in April 2014, that will see larger scale commercial operations replace the current system of licensed patients and designates growing medical cannabis.

“On April 1 they expire, and there’s no grandfathering provisions,” Olmstead confirmed.

Based on legal advice, staff had originally recommended writing to Health Canada requesting the location of existing operations, “to ensure that production ceases and the premises are properly remediated upon the expiry of the licences.”

The federal government, staff reported, has taken the position that current locations are protected from disclosure under the Privacy Act.

Directors agreed not to pursue the issue with Health Canada due to privacy issues.



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