The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) will be going to the public in June with draft proposals to allow medical marijuana production facilities on smaller agricultural parcels than currently allowed — but not too much smaller.
Reviewing a staff report at the April 17 planning and development committee meeting, directors questioned the rationale of including lots smaller than 3,500 square metres, even for discussion purposes.
“My substantive question is essentially why would we consider these types of uses on properties smaller than 3,500 square metres?” Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar asked. “That’s smaller than an acre. That may be pushing the community a little farther than they’re willing to go.”
Board chair Garry Nohr and Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis agreed with Shugar that properties smaller than 3,500 square metres should be deleted from the draft.
Committee chair Frank Mauro said he was “fascinated” to see 1,500 square metres listed as a possible parcel size under a separate draft bylaw for Area A.
“If it is decided to go ahead with this,” Mauro said, “I wouldn’t want to see 1,500 square metres even a consideration as a lot size.”
Staff was directed to remove that provision as well from the draft proposal, which contains a formula for combined gross floor area of all production facility buildings on the lot, based on parcel size.
While West Howe Sound was excluded from small-scale production, directors agreed to revisit the inclusion of Hillside Industrial Park for medical marijuana production under a separate review process.
Hillside was dropped from the current medical marijuana bylaw after directors learned from BC Assessment that the properties would receive farm class status and would generate less property taxes than industrial uses.
However, senior planner David Rafael reported at the meeting, BC Assessment has since said that only a portion of assessed value will be based on farm use and operations will likely have a mix of classes.
With several parcels at Hillside having no buildings or improvements, and therefore relatively low assessment, and with the potential for medical marijuana facilities to create jobs, Rafael said staff concluded that overall benefits would outweigh the potential loss in property taxes.
“On balance we feel the farm designation would not be detrimental,” he said.
The draft bylaws will be sent for comment to referral agencies, First Nations, advisory planning commissions, the Sunshine Coast RCMP detachment and SCRD fire chiefs before public information meetings are scheduled for June.
Currently the SCRD allows medical marijuana production facilities on minimum eight-hectare lots in the RU2 and RU3 zones, with a 60-metre setback for buildings.
The draft bylaws for small-scale production suggest a 15-metre setback and requirements for landscaping.
It will also include the option of making small-scale facilities conditional on having a residence on the property, to ensure someone is there to supervise the operation and serve as a contact.
“We don’t allow home-based businesses without a resident living there and I think the same should apply,” Shugar said.
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