Several Niagara mayors and regional representatives hope to team up to work towards solutions to their common concerns about marijuana-growing facilities.
After discussing limitations municipalities face when dealing with concerns about pot farms during a presentation by consultant Samuel Bouabane from Cannabis Compliance Inc., Niagara’s planning and development services committee members voted Tuesday to organize a workshop to identify potential zoning and bylaw regulations to address those concerns.
“We’re all kind of dealing with it in silos at the moment,” said committee chair Diana Huson, who introduced the motion. “It’s not a very effective way to obtain change or action on anything.”
The Pelham councillor said municipal staff at communities throughout the region and beyond still have questions about tools municipalities can use to regulate the cannabis producers.
“We want everyone to be good neighbours. It’s not about singling an industry out because you don’t like it. It’s a legal business and it’s not going anywhere,” she said in an interview following the meeting. “But the reality is we need to be better equipped in terms of dealing with how this industry can be housed in Niagara.”
Both Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin and Welland Mayor Frank Campion raised concerns about emissions and odours from some greenhouses.
Campion said complaints regarding odours would typically be dealt with through the municipality’s nuisance bylaws.
“However, we’re unable to do that because of a lot of factors, because it’s federal jurisdiction,” he told Bouabane.
Campion said it can take more than a year for the federal government to take action, while it “ties the hands of municipalities to address the concerns of the people who are living there.”
Huson said she’s also concerned about preserving tender fruit lands amid the increasing number of cannabis producers setting up shop in the region.
“Those are significant agricultural assets that really make Niagara unique and it’s something that makes Niagara different from other places in the entire world.”
The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has been working to delay efforts of a cannabis greenhouse operator to expand its facilities onto property designated for vegetables, tender fruit and grape production.
“It’s just how to be smarter about protecting our agricultural assets and how can we be more prepared for the industry and advocate for change that we need as a municipality,” Huson said.
She made a motion calling for development of a report summarizing what the workshop would entail, to be presented at a planning committee meeting for consideration.
West Lincoln Mayor Dave Bylsma called the workshop an excellent idea.