Medical marihuana operations and applications for the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) are getting a zoning review.
Reports prepared recently for the District by senior planners, are the result of recent consultation between staff and the public. However, officials said that more public input could better inform any changes.
Attendance was pretty low at recent area meetings, senior planner, David Rafael explained. Only three members of the public turned up at Roberts Creek and Elphinstone meetings, three at Hillside-West Howe Sound, and similar at Pender Harbour and Halfmoon Bay consultations.
“We had adopted two bylaws a little while ago to limit medical marihuana facilities to our rural zoning RU2 and RU3 which overlaps the Agricultural Land Reserve,” Rafael explained, “but you needed a parcel of 8 hectares or more to allow for that, and a 60 metre setback.”
The 8 hectare allowances were based on site coverage so one could have quite a substantial building under those original bylaws, the senior planner noted.
During the public comment process for those bylaws, residents expressed a desire for better zoning possibilities for smaller medical marihuana operations, Rafael says, “so that’s why we were consulting with the public on some proposals to allow for smaller developments on smaller lots.”
The various Areas within the SCRD are coming up with slightly different ways in how they want to approach it, which can complicate things as well, he added.
“Roberts Creek and Elphinstone areas are looking at allowing med-grow operations on a number of smaller properties in zones where agriculture is presently allowed,” planner Rafael said. They would consider shrinking the minimum parcel requirement to 3500 square metres, (just under two hectares) where producers would be allowed to have a 200 square metre building for production and processing.
An April 10 staff report to the SCRD included, “Safety of the facility and the neighbourhood is not a real issue, there are many small scale facilities and there is no evidence of crime or neighbourhood problems.”
One area viewed as suitable for medical marihuana production is Hillside industrial zone in Area F. Representatives from West Howe Sound have been working with the Regional District to harmonize their bylaws for agricultural production of medical marihuana on their industrial-zoned lands.
But some areas, including Area B, are likely to leave zoning unchanged.
“Halfmoon Bay has indicated they’re happy to leave the production in the larger parcels that are already allowed,” Rafael noted.
Applications for variances may help remedy some zoning conflicts, one SCRD report notes. Recent high court challenges to Health Canada changes that were to take effect April 1 of this year on regulating medical marihuana production, have been suspended until the courts can hear arguments from patients who brought the challenge.
SCRD reports are available on their website and comments or questions can be referred to senior planner, email@example.com and 604-885-6804 ext 4.