MORRISBURG – The Municipality of South Dundas recently passed an Interim Control Bylaw for Cannabis Facilities that for the most part effectively bars new facilities or expansions from happening for now.

“I think this is actually the responsible thing to do,” Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner said. “I like putting a pause on it. I know that comments within our community are about whether or not we’re saying no to business, and I think what folks need to understand is it’s not saying no to business. What it is, is we need the business model to catch up to the point where the technology is there. There’re companies that have done this correctly and it does not create conflict between users of land. So, I think that putting a pause on it and having a look and adjusting our bylaws is the responsible, respectful thing to do.”

The decision was made during the Feb. 28 council meeting where United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG) municipal planning consultant Peter Young recommended politicians pass the Interim Control Bylaw and direct staff to undertake a review of land use planning polices, with respect to cannabis production facilities. He noted in his report that public consultation was not required for an interim control bylaw. Council voted unanimously in favour of Young’s recommendations. Coun. Lloyd Wells was absent from the meeting.

“In the report, which was deferred from council’s last meeting, I mentioned that we had quite a few public comments on two recent cannabis facilities and, definitely, there are some great points raised by the public in terms of there’s a lot of discussion on what is the sensitive land use,” Young said. “Also, Deputy Mayor Gardner and others raising issues for new facilities – does the municipality have an odour control bylaw or the equipment if there are odour complaints – so we’re recommending through this report and a bylaw later in the meeting, that council put a temporary freeze on cannabis production facility applications in order to research and have time to prepare documents on both those topics.”

South Dundas did pass a bylaw for cannabis cultivation and processing facilities in 2021. Young’s report noted that while one application met all requirements and was approved under the bylaw, two more were received that did not meet the requirements and both were denied at the previous council meeting.

“In particular, we’re looking at adding a few policies in the Official Plan to greater discourage any significant variations to the setbacks that are approved by council, to prepare a bylaw for looking at odour control,” Young said, referring to the work being done at SDG County level. “There’s not a cost to South Dundas. We’re looking at this with several of the other municipalities in SDG and we received a grant from the province of about $112,000 to update zoning bylaws, so we would just add this to the work plan. The only thing would be the odour control bylaw, there might be a small cost just to put that together and work with your bylaw officer.”

In addition to prohibiting any new cannabis production facilities from setting up shop in South Dundas, the Interim Control Bylaw also prohibits expansion of existing facilities. It was also noted that there are exemptions to the bylaw. Young said council could give exemptions to applications that meet the current setbacks.

“The technology is so new, and this business model is so new,” Gardner said. “There will be companies and entrepreneurs that get it right and those will be the folks that we’ll want to welcome in because they’ll have the technology in place to not create this conflict, whether it’s smell or noise or water usage or whatever the case may be.”

Pre-existing facilities, those that were approved before the establishment of the bylaw, are deemed “legal non-conforming,” Young said. He said this means they’re fine as they are but if they were to expand, they would then need to meet current bylaw conditions. He said illegal setups can be prosecuted under the current bylaw.

Young noted that an interim control bylaw cannot be appealed for a period of one year. He said it can be extended for an additional year but would then be subject to an appeal process at that time.