Georgian Bluffs will hold off on developing its own policies regulating cannabis production and processing until after some other decisions are made by other levels of governments and the courts.
At its committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday, township council supported a staff recommendation deferring the creation of a policy and nuisance bylaw to address odour and lighting issues related to cannabis production.
Staff are waiting for other steps to be completed, including the province’s approval of new land use compatibility guidelines and Health Canada’s conclusion of consultation on cannabis. Staff also want to wait until the Ontario Superior Court of Justice makes a decision on the enforceability of a bylaw regulating cannabis operations that has been developed by the Municipality of Leamington, and a decision has been made on appeals to Leamington’s light abatement bylaw.
“Once we hear back on the decisions on those, it is going to better inform the decisions that council can make on regulating the use, so that we can have some balance,” the township’s senior planner, Jenn Burnett, said. “It is important to realize that economic development is important in a rural community and we don’t technically want to shut down opportunity for growth and investment.”
The request of staff to look into developing policies around cannabis production facilities was made earlier this year after councillors raised concerns about a large operation in a residential area. Residents said they were bothered by a strong odour from the plants.
In April, a report was presented to council by a planning student about cannabis policies and how they would impact the official plan and zoning bylaw. Another planning student with the township is continuing to study the matter this summer, researching surrounding municipalities and the zoning provisions they have, to be recommended for inclusion in the township’s own official plan and zoning bylaw, Burnett explained.
The township is also in the midst of an official plan update, and the consultants working on that are looking to include language in the update around cannabis production in and around the township’s settlement areas.
Burnett said one of the tools the municipality could use to direct cannabis facility development in the township is creating setback distances from settlement areas, inland lakes, significant wetlands, shorelines and municipal boundaries, which would limit where they can be located in relation to populated areas. The township also has a large area of Niagara Escarpment Plan lands.
“We do have the option to designate our settlement areas as sensitive land uses and help control the location of cannabis operations should they decide to operate in the township,” Burnett said, adding Grey County’s official plan recognizes cannabis production as an agricultural use, but allows the township to make determinations about processing and cultivation.
Coun. Carol Barfoot said even with the tools the township has to permit cannabis operations around settlement areas, she still has concerns about rural residents being impacted.
“We have to extend it so it protects our rural people as well,” Barfoot said.
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Georgian Bluffs is adding a land acknowledgement statement to the start of its meetings.
On Wednesday, the municipality’s committee of the whole approved a statement to be read at the meetings, likely beginning in August.
“I thought it was a well-done statement and I was quite impressed with it,” Mayor Dwight Burley said.
The statement was drafted by Clerk Brittany Drury after receiving direction from council in February to prepare a report on the matter.
Drury said she consulted with the local First Nations communities, neighbouring municipalities and the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority before coming up with a statement for council.
The statement will be used at the beginning of council and committee meetings, at special events or any other events determined to be appropriate by the chair, CAO and clerk.
The statement reads: “We acknowledge with respect, the history, spirituality, and culture of the Anishinaabek: The People of the Three Fires known as the Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi Nation, who have inhabited this land from time immemorial. And further give thanks to the Chippewas of Saugeen, and the Chippewas of Nawash, now known as the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, as the traditional keepers of the land. We also recognize, the Metis and Inuit whose ancestors shared this land and these waters. May we all, as Treaty People, live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with all its diverse peoples.”
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Georgian Bluffs staff are planning to develop a policy to deal with speed limits on roads within the township.
During council’s committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday, director of operations Steve Dollmaier said municipal staff currently follow the Transportation Association of Canada Guiding Principles which has a guiding document on road standards.
“We are looking at potentially bringing a policy forward and a guiding document so the Township of Georgian Bluffs has something that they can move forward with,” Dollmaier. “We are also looking at the 2022 budget for an overall comprehensive plan of the whole road network to look at all speed limits within the township.”
On Wednesday, the township’s council received a petition of more than 40 names requesting a speed limit reduction for Old Mill Road, which runs along the shore of Colpoy’s Bay near Bruce’s Caves.
The petition asked the speed limit be reduced from 50 km/h to 40 km/h, citing safety concerns for people crossing the road and pulling out of their driveways, curves and visibility issues and a lack of shoulders on the road. The petition said the reduction would ideally also include nearby Havelock Street.
In a separate letter, the municipality received a request to keep the speed limit the same or increase it to 60 km/h on Old Mill Road so that volunteer firefighters living on the road would be able to respond quicker.
Dollmaier said municipal staff would like to do a full review of the road to see what the speed limit should be.
Coun. Kathy Moore Coburn said having a consistent process is a good idea
“Although petitions are important I don’t think that should be our sole criteria, the number of names on a petition,” Moore Coburn said. “We don’t know where folks live or if they fully understand the issue and so I just want to make sure we are not just using petitions as a guiding principle to make these decisions.”