Pubdate: Fri, 13 Nov 2015
Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Coast Reporter
Author: Christine Wood

District of Sechelt


The District of Sechelt is one vote away from adopting a new medical 
marijuana zoning bylaw that would restrict where future medicinal pot 
facilities could operate.

Previously, on Oct. 7, Sechelt council couldn't agree on the bylaw 
that was before them, which would restrict medicinal grow-ops to 
areas at least one kilometre away from schools and 500 metres away 
from parks and playgrounds. However, when the bylaw was brought back 
by Mayor Bruce Milne on Nov. 4, all but councillors Mike Shanks and 
Doug Wright were in favour and it passed through three readings.

Fourth reading and final adoption of the bylaw is expected at the 
Nov. 18 regular council meeting.

"I wanted council to reconsider it for a number of reasons," Milne 
said on Nov. 4 when he reintroduced the bylaw.

"First of all, any bylaw we have is subject to a lot of community 
work and work by staff, and I think that we have heard from the 
community fairly clearly on this."

He also noted that if council didn't create a zoning bylaw, medical 
marijuana grow-ops could set up anywhere in Sechelt under the 
District's definition of horticulture.

"The other end of the continuum is to restrict it so it's virtually 
impossible to have any facilities whatsoever, even if they're 
legitimate business opportunities, and we can't go too far on that 
end of the spectrum either because it's actually illegal for 
municipalities to zone legitimate businesses out of existence. So you 
have to allow some place for them to carry on in the community," Milne said.

"We have to find a balance. I think this bylaw comes very close to 
that balance and I'm not sure that taking it to another public 
hearing or tweaking it in ways will actually give us a considerably 
better bylaw."

Milne said that after talking with council and community members, he 
saw four main issues in regards to medical marijuana, two of which 
could be addressed in the zoning bylaw.

"Odour and noise are very serious concerns, but they can't be 
addressed in zoning so I have to put those two aside. They're both 
issues that will be considered in development permits and in business 
licensing," Milne said.

"The two that remain, serious issues that can be dealt with through 
zoning, are proximity to residents and residential zones and 
proximity to schools or playgrounds or places where children are."

He noted residential areas must be at least "two football fields" 
(100 metres) away from any new medicinal grow-op site and that while 
there was some discussion by council in the past about increasing the 
distance to parks and playgrounds, there was no demonstrated security 
risk to children to warrant it.

Milne suggested it was "probably much more of a cultural issue where 
you don't want marijuana to be visible and have parents have to 
explain as they walk to school what that warehouse is."

On that front, Milne said any medicinal marijuana facility started 
under the new zoning bylaw would have to be set back from the lot 
line five metres, would be surrounded by security fencing and would 
have to be screened with vegetation.

"We really want to look at what we've done here and whether or not 
there's any real genuine concern for children going to and from 
school or being in school who have to walk by a hedged warehouse 
where you can't even see the chainlink fence because of the hedging," 
Milne said.

Once given the floor, Wright said he still wanted to see a larger 
buffer between grow-ops and playgrounds and Shanks said he'd rather 
see medicinal marijuana production limited to industrial areas zoned I-5 only.

"In the present situation, there are apparently 10 locations where 
medicinal marijuana plants can be established. If it was strictly 
confined to the Industrial-5 area, that would mean that it could only 
go on the airport property, which is far enough away that there 
wouldn't be any impact," Shanks said.

Due to their objections, Wright and Shanks voted against the new 
zoning bylaw while the rest of council passed it through three 
readings, without any changes.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom