Pubdate: Fri, 05 Sep 2014
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014, Barrie Examiner
Authors: Miriam King and Ian McInroy
Page: A1


Proposed Amendments Over Zoning Bylaw That Could Allow a Medical 
Marijuana Business Causes Uproar

INNISFIL - Even the possibility of a legal, commercial medical 
marijuana operation being allowed in Innisfil has some residents smoking mad.

The town held a public meeting Wednesday night to consider proposed 
amendments to the town-wide zoning bylaw that would govern the 
location of medicinal marijuana businesses.

Councillors got an earful from concerned residents.

An application has been made to transform a vacant 
commercial-industrial building on Highway 89 into medical marijuana 
facility, and some residents responded with a 200-signature petition 
in opposition to the proposal, and a litany of concerns, from 
security to the effect on property values.

The property in question is at 3745 Highway 89.

"This isn't a site-specific planning application we're dealing with," 
said Tim Cane, manager of land use planning. "This is a town-wide 
zoning change. We're processing a zoning bylaw amendment to the 
town-wide zoning bylaw to remove ambiguity in recognizing this type 
of land use."

During the meeting, Cane acknowledged that while the town hasn't 
received an application for the Cookstown property, but Health Canada has.

"There has been an application made to Health Canada for that site. 
There is no planning application submitted to the town," Cane said.

Cane said Innisfil is proposing to treat medical marijuana operations 
as industrial uses and limit their location to industrial-general and 
industrial-business park zones, banning them from agricultural areas.

Noting that the facilities approved by Health Canada range in size 
from approximately 50,000 to 150,000 square feet, Cane said, "There 
will be an increase in the property tax revenue if approved, as a 
facility would use vacant industrial land. These can generate tens of 
millions of dollars. These are large corporations."

Town planner Paul Pentikainen said the facilities "produce, process, 
test, package, store, destroy and distribute medical marijuana 
indoors," comparing them to other processing plants.

The current town staff recommendation suggests a minimum 70-metre 
separation from sensitive" land uses such as schools, residential 
areas, parks and day cares.

While the establishment of a medical marijuana operation in Innisfil 
is far from a done deal, some residents voiced their dissatisfaction 
with the whole idea.

Donna Orsatti, while agreeing with the industrial zoning, recommended 
a buffer of 150 metres and expressed concern about water use, 
electrical demands, and the traffic that would be generated by a large plant.

Arne Sorensen noted that his property is only 30 metres from the 
proposed Cookstown site.

"This facility will be in my backyard," he said, adding he was 
worried about odours, pollution and decreased property values.

"As a mom of two teenage boys, what kind of message are we sending 
youth?" asked Donna Cox. "On the one hand we're telling them don't do 
drugs, it'll fry your brains, it's a gateway drug, and on the other 
hand, we have our elected officials" approving a grow operation.

Sarah Currie presented the petition with nearly 200 signatures in 
opposition, and told councillors that concerns include water use, 
safety and the potential crime rate.

"We don't mind you having a marijuana grow op. Just don't have it 
where we live," she said.

And Cookstown resident Greg Cox, while supporting the use of medical 
marijuana, warned of "everything that goes along with the 
manufacture," including an increase in fire alarms and fire calls, 
and an increase in crime. He noted that the grow operations were 
private enterprise, for profit, "and we all know that where 
entrepreneurs can, they will cut corners to maximize profit." He 
suggested town staff investigate anyone planning to open or invest in 
a medical marijuana facility.

"What type of people are we inviting into our community?", he asked.

Cox said with a municipal election coming, "I believe this thing 
should be tabled until after the election. Let's have a plebiscite. 
Let's put it on the election ballot."

Cane said the proposed bylaw is to help alleviate some of those 
residents' concerns.

"Nothing's been approved," he said. "Right now, the current bylaw is 
silent because this is a new land use that hasn't previously been 
permitted federally. There is always public concerns with new land 
uses and in this case in particular, medical marijuana facilities. 
Much like any other application or land use, there's going to be 
concerns about location and traffic and safety in operations.

Not all of the comments at Wednesday night's meeting were negative.

A marijuana user, Patti Satok, made an impassioned plea for increased 
marijuana production, saying she suffers from severe joint pain and 

Satok has a prescription from a commercial producer but the producer 
has no product to send her.

"To me, this is the same as telling someone who takes a pill, 'sorry, 
you can't have that pill'. I want to try to educate people. This is 
the face of medical marijuana. This is my life.

"I hope people can see it in a different way now," she added. "It's medicine."

Coun. Doug Lougheed suggested it is Health Canada which decides the 
operations are legal, but adding by establishing zoning controls, the 
town can at least determine where a facility can go. Without a bylaw, 
"they could put it anywhere," he said.

Cane said a staff report will be drafted with the necessary 
recommendations in response to comments from the public meeting.

Residents wishing to have their say on the issue should have their 
comments into the town by the end of the day on Wednesday, Sept. 10, he added.

The bylaw will be back before council on Sept. 17.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom