By Tristan Marks
Lincoln residents expressed concern around potential consequences from Lincoln’s proposed cannabis bylaws.
The Town of Lincoln held a follow-up to last month’s cannabis production land-use open house sessions its Nov. 20 Planning & Economic Development Committee meeting.
Matt Bruder, the town’s associate director of planning and development, presented a rough outline of recommended bylaw options to deal with the on-going cannabis zoning issues.
Once again, members of the public were invited to voice any comments, concerns or inquiries they had to be answered or considered by the town staff.
Bruder explained much of the same options his department presented at October’s meetings. Among these suggestions were new zoning amendments and site plan control to ensure compliance from new grow-op sites as well as municipal licensing to make sure existing sites play by the rules as well.
He stressed the need for council to carefully consider each option.
“These bylaws must strike a balance between over-regulation and mitigation,” said Bruder.
As before, the topic of odour control dominated much of the discussion.
Coun. Mike Mikolic asked if the town could consider a nuisance odour control bylaw in addition to the other suggestions.
“I’d like to see as many regulations as we can attach to this industry,” said Mikolic.
Bruder said such a bylaw would be possible, but mentioned that his staff’s research found that similar municipalities have had “trouble writing and enforcing these bylaws.”
“It lends itself to enforcement issues,” Bruder explained.
Coun. JD Pachereva noted that repurposed agricultural sites would not be good enough for odour control standards.
“Purpose-built site planning is the only option we should consider,” Pachereva said. “You do things the right way if you do business with us.”
However, he went on and said that the concept of a municipal licensing bylaw would do well in setting the standard and precedent for other municipalities.
“I think this is a watershed moment in addressing cannabis,” said Pachereva adding that this could define what is “normal farm use” in regards to cannabis cultivation.
“We can use “normal farm use” definition in the municipality’s favour.”
However some members of the public who spoke that night mentioned concerns over what unintended consequences the potential bylaws might bring.
Hugh Fraser from the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance asked if the town considered how to treat short-term rentals.
He also pointed out that cannabis producers looking to open up business in Lincoln would end up buying large amounts of land to meet the proposed licensing agreements.
“It’s going to be a big property, isn’t it?” Fraser asked, noting a potential 150m-300m setback stipulation for grow sites.
Matthew Reinhart, from Freeman’s Herbs and Hendriks Greenhouses, went even further.
“These will definitely have unintended consequences,” said Reinhart.
He gave the example that non-cannabis greenhouse builders might not invest in Lincoln if it meant that they didn’t have the option of renting or selling to a cannabis business.
Mayor Sandra Easton echoed their concerns.
“How do we ensure that there will be no unintended consequences in our efforts to control cannabis?” Easton asked.
Bruder said that hindering or applying these bylaws to industries outside of cannabis, such as wineries, was “not our intent here.”
He added that the town was reaching out to stakeholders and working with them to avoid such consequences.
Easton stood by her opinion from the October meeting that the town should use every legislative tool they could.
“How much can we push the law?” she asked, saying that she was “fully aware” of potential court rulings.
“Is it possible we can lose on all possible recommendations?”
“It’s hard to know for sure,” Bruder replied.
CAO Mike Kirkopoulos said, “we are working lockstep with OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)” to avoid such challenges and unintended consequences.