Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jul 2016
Source: Terrace Standard (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Terrace Standard
Author:  Ben Bengtson


The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine wants more citizens to share 
their thoughts on its proposed medical marijuana bylaw, and will 
offer another public hearing on the matter this fall after a recent 
one was sparsely attended.

A public hearing in Terrace July 19 had less than 10 residents show 
up and a hearing the following night in New Hazelton was attended by 
only one person.

"We've recessed it and we will reconvene at a future date and time 
appointed by the regional district board, potentially looking at some 
time in the fall," said Nicholas Redpath, a planner with the regional district.

The district has been looking into a bylaw on this matter since 2014, 
around the same time that new legislation from Health Canada made it 
so that legal access to medical marijuana would be provided by 
licensed producers at large scale commercial production facilities.

This decision by Health Canada built upon its previous program, which 
allowed individuals to obtain small scale grow op licenses for the 
purpose of producing medical marijuana.

The regional district is hoping that its bylaw will allow it to 
regulate certain aspects of these production facilities should 
someone try and open one here.

The residents that attended the July 19 public hearing had the 
opportunity to share their thoughts on the bylaw.

Representatives from the regional district were receptive to these 
ideas in making their decision to host another public hearing at a later date.

Voicing concern

Ronald Town, a longtime Thornhill and regional district resident, 
said he was concerned that the public hearing occurred in the middle 
of summer at a time when many people are away on vacation. He felt 
that it meant many were missing out on having their voices heard.

"I just feel that more citizens need to be around here," Town said 
after the public hearing. "Traditionally July and August there are a 
lot of people away."

He said, for example, that he estimated almost half the people on his 
street in Thornhill were currently away.

Town also said that he felt like the public hearing was not given 
proper notice and many people were not aware the hearing was even taking place.

"There was really hardly any warning whatsoever that this was 
coming," Town said.

A notice of the public hearing was published in the July 6 and 13 
issues of the Terrace Standard; the July 8 and 15 issues of the 
Northern Connector; as well as in the Bulkley Browser newspaper.

Currently, the only area where a medical marijuana production 
facility can legally operate in the regional district is on land that 
is part of the agricultural land reserve (ALR).

ALR falls under provincial jurisdiction. And a local government or 
the regional district has no say in the matter if an individual wants 
to open a medical marijuana production facility on the ALR.

"We have no say over that - they trump our legislation. So without 
this bylaw they could still go ahead," Redpath said. However with the 
proposed bylaw, he said the regional district would be able to 
regulate and manage a medical marijuana facility should one open up on the ALR.

"This bylaw introduces different legislation and restrictions - 
setbacks, distances away from residential property lines, size 
restrictions, height restrictions, and setbacks from schools, parks, 
things like that," Redpath said.

Specifically, if someone wanted to open a facility on the ALR, the 
proposed bylaw would ensure the facility was 150 metres from the 
property line of any site that contained a community hall, school, 
daycare, church or community park.

"Right now we don't have the power to stop them, we just have the 
power to add restrictions to it," Redpath said.

Besides specific points of interest, the proposed bylaw has a general 
requirement that marijuana facility must be at least 30 metres from 
all property lines. This is similar to a zoning bylaw update the City 
of Terrace enacted in 2014, making it so that a medical marijuana 
facility would only be permitted if it was located in the ALR and at 
a minimum distance of 30 metres away from all parcel lines.

The regional district's proposed bylaw does not apply to the City of 
Terrace and vice versa.

Industrial exemption

Terrace resident Jennifer Morgan raised another concern at the public 
hearing about an exemption in the proposed bylaw regarding industrial land.

It stipulates that medical marijuana production facilities shall be 
permitted within the light industrial and restricted industrial zones 
of electoral district "E," which is Thornhill.

"Do we really need to put that in our industrial area when we have 
land reserves all over for it to be?" Morgan said after the hearing. 
"My concern is that the public and the industries are not aware that 
the district would like to take this one step past the [agricultural] 
land and put it to some industrial lands."

Redpath said the district consulted with the Thornhill Advisory 
Planning Commission, who felt that since a medical marijuana 
production facility was an industrial use, it could be potentially 
suitable to have it in sites that are zoned industrial.

"Why push them outside when we could have them closer in for tax 
reasons?" Redpath said.

Redpath also said having a production facility built on industrial 
land in Thornhill, as opposed to the ALR, would allow a medical 
marijuana facility to be closer to services such as community water, 
police and fire emergency services.

He added that some larger industrially zoned properties in Thornhill 
could potentially accommodate these marijuana production facilities, 
but that doesn't mean they all could because the land, whether it is 
ALR or industrial, would still be subject to the bylaw's other 
requirements, such as being 150 metres away from a school.

The bylaw has already gone through first and second reading. After 
another public hearing, a third reading will be required before adoption.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom