Zoning bylaw changing to match new cannabis laws

Amendments to bring Sechelt’s zoning bylaws in line with new federal and provincial laws on cannabis as well as Sechelt council’s newly adopted policy on cannabis retailing will soon go to public hearing.

The amendments were introduced for first reading at the April 17 council meeting.

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The cannabis retailing policy calls for non-medical cannabis shops to be restricted to the commercially zoned property in the downtown core or the “regional commercial” area in Wilson Creek. Three of the four retailers currently open under temporary use permits in Sechelt are already in those zones. So far none have received a licence from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

Councillors were supportive of embedding those restrictions on cannabis shops into the zoning bylaws.

Director of planning Tracy Corbett also told councillors the bylaw needed changes to address “micro cultivation” and “micro production” facilities, which are now legal.  In the new bylaw, the distinction between cultivation and production is that cultivation is strictly the growing of the marijuana plants, and production can mean “cultivation, production, processing, storage, distribution, or analytical testing and research of cannabis and cannabis products.”

Micro cultivation would be allowed in the rural residential zone (RR 2), in enclosed buildings, and on ALR land. Micro production would be restricted to industrial zones.

“In all of our regulations beyond cultivation in the ALR they’re [required to be] in enclosed buildings, and instead of trying to regulate this for much larger setbacks, I’ve put in that they had to do odour control – that’s the main issue,” Corbett told councillors, adding that the Agricultural Land Commission already has very strict regulations for cannabis on ALR properties and Sechelt would “just abide by those regulations.”

The proposed setback requirements for facilities that fall under the micro production or cultivation rules would allow them to be 50 metres from residential zoned properties instead of the 100 metres required for a regular cannabis growing facility.

Coun. Matt McLean said he’d like to see the 50-metre buffer applied across the board “to enable more properties to be a cannabis production facility.”

“I’d like to welcome these businesses into our community with proper regulation and I don’t see any reason to limit it more than needed,” McLean told council before introducing a motion to have a consistent 50-metre buffer in all cases. “One hundred metres is quite a large space, so if you’re looking at putting quite a large facility [on a lot] and putting another 100 metres around that, you’re essentially prohibiting any of these facilities. So make it a little more feasible by reducing it to 50 metres, which I think is a reasonable distance.”

Coun. Alton Toth said he could not support a smaller buffer for larger facilities. “It’s only prohibiting them if they abut a residential zone… There’s no way I’d want a big industrial operation anywhere near my neighbourhood.”

Coun. Brenda Rowe agreed. “This whole entire cannabis discussion is going to be long, ongoing and challenging for lots of our community members. I think 100 metres would be totally appropriate when it butts up to a residential zone.”

Councillors rejected McLean’s proposed change and the bylaw amendments passed first reading as drafted. Coun. Tom Lamb withdrew from the discussion over a potential conflict because the regulations could impact a property he owns.

A date for the public hearing on the bylaw amendments is still to be set.

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