Rural areas split on ‘small-parcel’ medical pot grows, lot sizes upped


John Gleeson / Staff Writer
July 24, 2014 10:02 AM

Bylaws to allow medical marijuana production as a permitted use on smaller agricultural parcels are moving toward the public hearing stage in Roberts Creek and Elphinstone, but not other rural areas of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).

Bylaws to allow medical marijuana production as a permitted use on smaller agricultural parcels are moving toward the public hearing stage in Roberts Creek and Elphinstone, but not other rural areas of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).

And even for Roberts Creek and Elphinstone, the minimum lot size for “smaller parcels” has been boosted to one hectare (2.5 acres) in the latest version of the draft bylaws.

Both Pender Harbour/Egmont director Frank Mauro and Halfmoon Bay director Garry Nohr signaled their intentions last week not to proceed with bylaws to allow medical grow-ops as a permitted use on smaller rural parcels in those areas. West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull had previously opted out of the bylaw.

Since an SCRD bylaw passed earlier this year allows marijuana facilities as a permitted use only in RU2 or RU3 zones on parcels larger than eight hectares, the decision means applicants in the rural areas that do not have small-parcel bylaws would have to apply for a site-specific rezoning and go through a public hearing process.

Recommending the bylaw not proceed in Area A, Mauro told the planning and development committee on July 17 that, while there was some interest in the idea from members of his area’s advisory planning commission (APC), “it seems to me that there was a split in general.”

Concerns raised, he said, included the need for “further definition … with regard to smaller facilities” and the unknowns surrounding the outcome of a court challenge to Health Canada’s new medical marijuana regulations, which is not expected to be heard until February next year.

As well, he said, with Area A embarking on an official community plan review, land-use designations could change as part of that process. “Trying to zone for smaller lots is a complex issue and may come back to bite us,” he said.

For Halfmoon Bay, staff reported that the APC considered the issue at two meetings and concluded the proposed changes should not apply to Area B.

Nohr supported that position, asking staff to explicitly exclude Halfmoon Bay from the recommendation to proceed with bylaws in other areas.

While staff recommended giving first and second reading to bylaws for Roberts Creek and Elphinstone and setting a public hearing for September, Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar said she was “not happy” with the bylaw as presented and requested changes.

The draft bylaw set the minimum lot size at 3,500 square metres (0.86 acre) for Area D, and Shugar said she felt the comments from the Roberts Creek Official Community Plan commission (OCPC) had been “included but overlooked in the recommendation” by staff.

“I think as a compromise position — the OCPC recommended a two-hectare minimum size — I would suggest a one-hectare minimum size, rather than a 3,500 square metre minimum,” Shugar said.

The draft bylaw for Elphinstone included parcel sizes of less than 1,500 sq. m (0.4 acre) in some zones, but Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis agreed to incorporate Shugar’s change in his area’s bylaw as well and set the minimum at one hectare.

He also agreed with Shugar’s request to specify in the bylaw that no retail sales could take place on site.

Health Canada regulations do not allow onsite sales, but Shugar said the federal rules could change in the future.

“And even if marijuana were legal, I wouldn’t want to see marijuana sales all over the community,” she said. “I would want to see them in designated areas.”

The committee agreed to amend the bylaws with those two changes and give them first reading at the July 24 board meeting. Also at Shugar’s suggestion, staff will report back in September on how form and character can be regulated under the bylaws before directors consider them for second reading.

The committee, meanwhile, gave staff the green light to proceed to public hearing in September for a separate bylaw to allow medical marijuana facilities as a permitted use in Industrial-1 and Industrial-7 zones in the Hillside area of West Howe Sound.

In his reports to the committee, senior planner David Rafael noted the City of Langley issued a news release last month saying Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick refused to approve a bylaw intended to prevent marijuana production in the city’s Agricultural Land Reserve. The province also announced that medical marijuana facilities would not qualify for farm classification starting with the 2015 assessment rolls.

© Coast Reporter


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