The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) has tentatively scheduled two back-to-back public hearings in March to get feedback on proposed bylaw amendments for medical marijuana production facilities.
At the same time, staff are also exploring separate zoning rules for small-scale grow operations on smaller agricultural parcels.
The first hearing, set for March 11 at 7 p.m. in the SCRD boardroom on Field Road, will be to receive public input on a bylaw that would permit medical marijuana production on rural lots in the RU2 and RU3 zones that are eight hectares (19.8 acres) or more.
The original bylaw also included Hillside Industrial Park (I7 zone), but directors decided to remove that option after hearing from staff that industrial properties could apply to BC Assessment to receive farm classification.
"There were too many questions arising from potential changes for assessed values," senior planner David Rafael said.
In a Feb. 20 report to the planning and development committee, Rafael and planning technician Lesley-Ann Staats noted that City of Nanaimo council recently voted to remove medical marijuana facilities from its industrial zone to ensure its industrial tax revenue is not lowered.
SCRD staff contacted a BC Assessment appraiser, who confirmed "the SCRD would receive significantly lower tax revenue from the farm classification than if they were classed as industrial," the report said.
Directors agreed to remove the I7 zone from the proposed bylaw and direct staff to report back on the tax implications of allowing the use on industrial-zoned properties.
The second hearing, set for March 12 at 7 p.m. in Eric Cardinal Hall in West Howe Sound, will seek public input on a proposed rezoning by Richnor Recycling Ltd. for a 12,000-square-foot (1,080-square-metre) medical grow-op on Horsethief Road, south of Hillside Industrial Park.
In December, staff reported that the 1.9-hectare property is isolated from residential areas and is currently being used as a mechanical repair shop for heavy equipment, an office and a warehouse. The grow-op would be spread out over four to five floors in the existing building, staff reported.
No objections to the application were raised when it was referred to the West Howe Sound advisory planning commission, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and Squamish Nation, senior planner Andrew Allen reported to the committee on Feb. 20.
During the same meeting, directors also gave staff the green light to draft a bylaw for small-scale medical marijuana production on lands that currently permit agriculture in Areas A, B, D and E.
The recommendation from staff came after several licensed growers approached the SCRD expressing an interest in continuing to operate on lots smaller than eight hectares, while adhering to all Health Canada regulations, Staats said in a report.
Staff will look at an option that would treat small-scale grow-ops on agricultural land similar to a home occupation, with building size based on parcel size.
At press time, the public hearing dates were still to be ratified at the Feb. 27 regular SCRD board meeting.
See www.scrd.ca for more information.
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