New restrictions for Cannabis facilities in the works

CORNWALL – Opening a legal, commercial Cannabis production facility in SDG Counties may be more difficult starting later this month. The restrictions come as SDG Counties Council is moving ahead with amendments to its Official Plan. This comes after several planning issues have happened in the Counties since legalization in 2018.

“This is something that the federal government decided to do, their challenge is they don’t want to police it. That just ends up on our plate,” said Councillor Steven Byvelds (South Dundas). He was speaking to the proposed amendments during the public meeting held July 18.

Since 2018, Cannabis production has fallen under agriculture zoning in municipal planning documents. Mitigating the impact on others with indoor and outdoor Cannabis production has fallen on municipalities using a patchwork of preexisting planning rules. Several municipalities in SDG Counties have had to deal with odor, adaptive use, and other planning issues. Prompted by a reset and a set standard across the United Counties, three lower-tier municipalities including South Dundas put a temporary moratoriums on new Cannabis production facilities earlier this year.

“Strengthening policies at the county level is a good thing,” Byvelds said. “As much as [Cannabis] is an agricultural product it is unique.” Byvelds said Cannabis production has had “significant issues” in South Dundas.

Those issues include numerous bylaw complaints for building code issues including for odor. South Dundas council recently rejected two proposed production facilities earlier in 2022 due to setback and location concerns. OPP dismantled two outdoor Cannabis operations in South Dundas in the past two years.

The draft amendment (Amendment 14) to SDG Counties Official Plan provides a more rigid framework for commercial producers. Counties’ Planner Peter Young specified the official plan amendment dealt with commercial growers, not those growing for personal Cannabis consumption. If adopted, the changes allow for only new buildings to be built specifically for Cannabis production. Using an existing agricultural buildings for grow-ops is not allowed unless the building owner undergoes a change-of-use permit process.

When applying, Cannabis producers have to show how the facility will not affect sensitive land use areas including residential, institutions, and recreation. How close a development is to residential and tourism sites will be a factor to consider for approval as well. New buildings have to have a separation zone (setback) to buffer Cannabis production from other land. Facility proponents have to show plans for dealing with noise, dust, smell, light pollution, traffic, and waste management. Water and wastewater treatment if on municipal services, or private well and septic services in rural areas considerations are a factor for application approval.

New Cannabis facilities will be subject to a Site Control Plan by a municipality’s planning department as well.

Not affected by the proposed amendments are existing legal commercial Cannabis production facilities. If an existing facility plans to expand, then the amended official plan will be considered. During the public meeting, Summerstown Station resident Jaqueline Milner said she was happy to see the amendment at the council table. “Me and my community had to deal with a Cannabis production very close to my home,” she told council. “We had to deal with stink 24 hours a day.”

A part-time bus driver, Milner said she had to deal with the smell from the neighbouring facility in the air that entered the bus she drove.

“This may be a happy little diversion for people. People are free to do what they like. For residents who have to deal with this, it isn’t pretty,” she explained.

Milner was the only person to address council during the public meeting. At publication time, no written submissions had been received either.

The amendment to the Official Plan will be on the agenda for passage at the August 22 council meeting.

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