By Tim Kalinowski
Cypress County will be holding public hearings and debating its new land use bylaw during both the March 22 meeting and the April 5 meeting starting at 10 a.m. at the Cypress County council chambers in Dunmore. The land use bylaw was last updated in 2011. The new bylaw will deal with some new realities in the county such as off-street parking, new land use definitions for amusement and entertainment services, solar panel construction facilities and businesses and licenced medical marijuana grow operations.
“We are trying to be proactive with this particular version of the land use bylaw,” confirms Jeffrey Dowling, planning supervisor for Cypress County.
With licenced medical marijuana grow operations, specifically, Dowling says Cypress County has already been approached on a few occasions in the past about the possibility of setting up such operations in the area. While medical marijuana facilities are still uncommon in Alberta, Dowling feels it is better the county is ahead of curve rather than struggling with the issue on an ad hoc basis as it does at the moment.
“What’s happening there is in the event a landowner comes forward and has gone to the federal government and is able to produce the necessary approvals and authorizations, and they want to develop a production facility in the county, we now have some regulations and we can process their application,” explains Dowling.
Dowling says he studied other bylaws across the province to come up with the county’s proposed regulations, and adjusted them to suit the local situation.
“With the land use bylaw it is always a document that’s ever-changing. So if we can get some regulations put in place to give us a starting point. From there, as things develop, we can refine, tweak and make adjustments as needed. I looked at some other regulations in Alberta some municipalities have put in place. I looked at what some of the federal requirements had in place. And then I sort of built in some of our own planning principles.”
Dowling says he wanted to make sure there was a clear distinction in the land use bylaw between standard greenhouse operations and medical marijuana facilities.
“Right now a landowner can go to the federal government and get a producer’s licence through the federal justice minister. If they are able to attain that then the next step is to obtain a development permit to be able to locate their facility and set up operations. This way (under our new bylaw) it is separated and not tied in or associated with standard greenhouse production regulations,” says Dowling.
With the new bylaw in place the county will also be able to control where and under what conditions such an operation can be set up.
“We will allow production facilities for medical purposes only,” says Dowling. “The regulations basically state we want them located on certain types of zoning districts: Hamlet Commercial, Hamlet Industrial, Industrial and Light Industrial. And we want them located at least 400 metres away from schools and residences.”
Dowling says with the federal government indicating it will begin to allow expanded legal marijuana production in Canada in the near future it is a reality all muncipalities will eventually have to deal with.
“While we have no medical marijuana operations in the county at present, we are doing this (bylaw) in anticipation that this will eventually occur,” states Dowling.