By Tristan Marks
Town of Lincoln officials were not just blowing smoke with their promise to rein in cannabis growers in the municipality.
Lincoln Council passed a motion to amend the Town’s Official Plan and zoning bylaws with new regulations aimed at gaining some control over cannabis grow-ops.
The motion passed 7-2 with Coun. Paul McPherson and Mike Mikolic dissenting in a recorded vote.
Future cannabis production sites will now be subject to site plan control from the Town. Other requirements include:
• 300m setback, measured from the property line not neighbouring structures;
• Eight hectare minimum lot size;
• 1000m minimum distance from other cannabis production sites;
• An odour control plan to demonstrate how the new site will mitigate odour through “reasonable measures,” and;
• New sites are prohibited from retrofitting or converting existing buildings for cannabis production use.
The definition of a ‘cannabis production facility’ has been altered to include outdoor use as well.
Consultant Greg Bender explained that these parameters were decided on after a lengthy review of best practices among similar municipalities and discussion with stakeholders.
However, he explained that the exact numbers were chosen as a “solution unique to Lincoln”.
Coun. Dianne Rintjema questioned the inclusion of outdoor cannabis facilities in the zoning bylaw.
“Some might say that outdoor operations will have a greater impact (on odour), while I’ve heard others say that it’s not as bad since production isn’t year round,” said Rintjema.
Bender explained that outdoor facilities would, in theory, have less of an impact due to the lack of a centralized exhaust system and lower yields in general because of seasonal growing. They also would be subject to the same site plan process as an indoor facility.
Associate director of planning Matt Bruder said that the zoning bylaw still has a key limitation, in that it cannot be retroactively applied to existing sites. However, he explained that staff is reviewing a draft licencing framework and a nuisance bylaw directed towards odour to fill those blind spots.
Coun. Mike Mikolic asked about how staff would determine the viability of a site’s odour control.
“Was there any consideration to require carbon filters?” Mikolic asked. “I don’t know what ‘reasonable measures’ would be.”
Bruder explained that it was worded in such a way to “create a balance between restriction and flexibility.”
“If we over-regulate, the chance of it being overturned grows larger,” Bruder said later in the meeting.
Mayor Sandra Easton asked if there was an “empirically tested” count of the parcels of land in Lincoln that could be used for cannabis production in Lincoln under the bylaw.
“I’m certainly not obliged to leave any loopholes here,” said Easton.
Bender said generally that there were “minimal” numbers of such locations under the bench based on his research, but admitted that he was unsure of how many might exist above it.
Coun. Paul MacPherson noted his concern for the lack of this information.
“Mapping is about being informed,” said MacPherson. “Right now I’m hearing from Mr. Bender that he doesn’t know.”
While finalizing these amendments, the Town utilized an interim control bylaw to deal with the nuisance.
Having already been extended twice, the interim bylaw was set to expire Oct. 11.