UXBRIDGE: In an effort to have more local control over potential medical marijuana growing operations in the municipality, councillors recently began a review of rural zoning requirements.
Township planning consultant Liz Howson explained the rationale for the process during a public planning meeting on Monday, June 29.
“We’ve had two formal inquiries where council has had to take a position as to whether they would have any objections,” said Ms. Howson. “As a result of those two formal processes they realized they needed to develop a formal way of evaluating these applications.”
As Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor added, one of the applications - a location on Durham Rd. 30 - is still pending, while councillors objected to an operation on Davis Dr.
As outlined in Ms. Howson’s report, the township would have more control over zoning issues with new application through the new regulations including maximum building sizes, a minimum lot size of 100 acres, a minimum separation of 3,000 metres (three kilometres) between operations, a residential building on the property for an on-site caretaker, as well as the requirement that the property front onto a regional road.
“Once approved by the federal government, operations would still need these approvals from the township,” added Ms. Howson. “One thing we felt was important was that there be a physical presence on the site. Our feeling was that there needed to be someone there physically keeping an eye on the situation 24/7, so that’s what these regulations will do. That’s an extra layer of security that we are requiring, above and beyond the federal regulations.”
“There is a huge focus on security not only on the property, but how things as transported to-and-from. Can we do something beyond a caretaker? Maybe a security company? Something beyond some guy living in a shack,” commented Councillor Highet.
Mayor O’Connor attempted to appease transportation concerns by pointing out that narcotics are already transported across the province on a daily basis.
“Millions of tablets of oxycodone are going across roads everyday that we don’t know about,” added Mayor O’Connor. “I don’t think it will be any different for medical marijuana, They’d have the same security as pharmaceutical deliveries have currently.”
However, despite the measures included in the report, many residents still expressed concerns over having medical marijuana operations in rural zones, and not industrial or commercial areas, as is currently the case in other municipalities.
“We feel that the production of a controlled substance does not belong in a farming community,” local residents Ryan and Vivien Towle said in a submitted letter. “(It) is suited more for an industrial plaza where controls and policing are more readily available. It would be outrageous to think that the sites could be effectively monitored and controlled when spread throughout the township at large.”
As well, Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy noted that many municipalities have restricted these operations to industrial and commercial zones, which CAO Ingrid Svelnis explained was not as possible in Uxbridge Township, due primarily to a lack of space.
“Given the limited space available for industrial uses within the township and the limited opportunity to create more given development constraints, if you bring agriculture into those areas you lose out on taxes versus having straight industrial uses in there,” said Ms. Svelnis. “It’s certainly something to think about, especially when your opportunities are limited.”
Councillors ultimately received Ms. Howson’s report for information, and will engage in further debate on the proposed changes to the zoning regulations at a later date.