In an attempt to establish a set of regulations for the production of cannabis, Sooke council has adopted amendments to the official community plan and zoning bylaw.
The extensive 79-page staff report that led to the amendments occurred without specific policy direction from council.
The report pointed out that while local governments are not the approving authority for cannabis production facilities, they do have the ability to influence where those facilities locate in the community.
District staff said the proposed bylaws in the report would clarify where cannabis production could take place, limit potential land-use conflicts, and potentially encourage economic development in the district.
But some recommendations were immediately flagged as problematic.
While both micro and standard cannabis production was added to M1 Light Industrial, M2 General Industrial, and M3 Heavy Industrial zones, that same production would only be allowed in rural zones where Agriculture – Intensive is a permitted use and in the C1 Neighbourhood Commercial, C2 General Commercial, C3 Service Commercial, and C4 Commercial Recreation zones with the granting of temporary use permits for the activities.
“If I were investing a million dollars then I would simply go to where it’s allowed. I wouldn’t take the chance of going to an area with a temporary permit that had the potential of not being renewed,” said Coun. Tony St Pierre.
“I just don’t see enough support from the business community for the temporary use permit option. And if the industry isn’t interested, then why do we have it?”
That sentiment was echoed by Scott Taylor, one of Sooke’s retail cannabis operators.
“I believe this is an opportunity for Sooke, but if there is a temporary permit on the commercial side, it won’t even give us access to the community,” said Taylor.
“The risk factor implied by the temporary use permit puts the risk factor (for the business) through the roof.”
The report, however, said the temporary use permits would allow for the flexibility of permitting micro facilities with discretionary case-by-case review to minimize potential risks associated with a land-use which still has many unknowns. It noted that at the time the report was written only one cannabis production micro facility was licensed in Canada.
And while the oft times impenetrable information within the report left councillors with questions that couldn’t be answered because, as Mayor Maja Tait observed, “Federal regulations are still catching up,” it was Coun. Al Beddows who seemed to sum up council’s sentiment.
“If we pass this and the landscape shifts we can change it. Having something on the books is better than having nothing on the books and I’m pretty happy with proceeding with this,” he said.
The recommendations within the report were adopted unanimously.