Councillors want at least 400 metres between cannabis production and processing facilities and residential areas in the city.
At a recent community development committee meeting, they rejected a city staff recommendation that the facilities be located 70 metres from residential zones, citing, in particular, noxious smells that could come from the plants.
“We need to get ahead of it,” said Coun. Cheryl Antoski of the zoning bylaw amendment. “The guidelines are very old and we haven’t dealt with cannabis. We got a lot of feedback from people who are against this (70 metre separation).”
Coun. Richard Carpenter agreed, saying, “we have to err on the side of protecting a residential area.”
Cannabis production and processing would also be prohibited on lands within the annexed area of the city. In 2016, Brantford annexed 2,719 hectares of mostly farmland from the County of Brant for residential, industrial and commercial growth.
Brant County has a separation distance of 150 metres between cannabis operations and residential zones.
Brynne O’Neill, a development planner for the city, said that with legalization of cannabis in October 2018, many municipalities have been dealing with a variety of issues and concerns related to the industry.
“As a result, municipalities are trying to establish a clear approach for the economic development opportunities provided by the cannabis industry, while ensuring there are no negative impacts to sensitive land uses,” said O’Neill.
There are currently five cannabis production and processing facilities in the city, three of them are operational. O’Neill said there have been no complaints, odour or otherwise, lodged with the city’s property standards or bylaw services. She said that’s likely because all the facilities are in fully enclosed buildings located in industrial areas.
However, O’Neill said “there appears to be a gap in Health Canada’s regulation process.” While commercial growers are heavily regulated, that’s not always the case for the growing of medical cannabis.
Health Canada allows up to four people with registrations for growing medical cannabis to combine their growing operations on the same property without notifying the city.
“These facilities can become an issue as individuals combine their prescriptions to grow potentially large amounts of cannabis to meet their medical needs,” said O’Neill. “These facilities are not required to have air purification systems and, depending on the size and scale of the operation, odour can become a potential issue.”
The city’s planning staff is recommending a separation distance be in place between residential zones and growing operations for medical cannabis.
The city’s economic development department says commercial cannabis operations occupy about 180,000 square feet throughout the city which have generated more than $5 million in building permit values to date, $519,000 in municipal taxes and 195 new jobs.
Economic development staff said “significant” expansion projects are scheduled for several existing facilities and there are other prospective operators interested in locating cannabis facilities in the city.
At a public meeting and in emails sent to the city, residents were mainly concerned about potential odour emissions from the operations. Odour occurs mainly during the harvest period.
Councillors also voted in favour of prohibiting the outdoor storage of “waste soils, plant materials, organics and fertilizer” at cannabis operations.
Councillor Dan McCreary also received the committee’s backing for city staff to investigate the details, including cost, of conducting a wind study to gauge odour from the facilities.
“Most smells can drift and it can be putrid,” said Coun. Brian VanTilborg.
The issue requires final approval by city council at its meeting on Aug. 25.