Council prepares for public hearing on cannabis

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Proposed bylaw changes lay out separation distances, zoning

Proposed changes to St. Albert’s land use bylaw would restrict where cannabis production and distribution facilities could be located and would require a 100-metre separation between cannabis retailers.

City councillors got their first peek this week at how cannabis legalization would change the city’s land use bylaw when they passed in first reading proposed amendments to the bylaw. Second and third reading will come to the June 25 meeting, where councillors will also hold a public hearing.

Mayor Cathy Heron said she expects there will be some more changes to the bylaw when it comes forward in June and likely some amendments from council as well.

“There will be a few more changes, but I think we’ll be glad when we have our ducks in a row and we’re willing and ready and open for business for this new era,” she said.

Heron decided to allow a few questions from council on the proposed bylaw, which will be repeated when the public hearing opens in June. Normally, all questions would be held until the public hearing.

She said she allowed that in order to take some of the pressure off the June 25th meeting, which is already set to be a long one, and to give city staff a chance to make some changes before that meeting.

“I’m really hoping that we get a good, robust turnout of people who do have concerns,” she said.

“I have been getting lots of emails, with some legitimate concerns and some concerns that are based on misunderstandings, so hopefully we can clear a lot of that up on the public hearing date.”

The proposed bylaw changes include separation distances from other buildings as well. Cannabis retailers would need to be 100 metres away from hospitals, 150 metres away from city-operated community halls and recreation facilities, 150 metres away from school property, 150 metres away from day cares and 100 metres away from municipal and school reserve lands.

The separation distances would not apply if the retail store is located across an arterial road.

Resident Mike Killick presented to council on May 28 to ask them to consider increasing separation distances between stores, preferably to 300 metres.

“Do we really need retail stores to be this close together?” he asked.

“I believe we should set the distances more conservatively at the beginning of the process, and relaxing them much later is easier than trying to restrict them after the fact.”

He also pointed to a discrepancy in the bylaw that puts stores 150 metres away from school properties but only 100 metres from municipal and school reserve lands.

“My question would be, what happens when a school is built on a reserve parcel – does the city actually have to go in and force the store … to close and move 150 metres away?” he said.

Cannabis retail stores would not be allowed in some business park zones and would be a discretionary use for other zones. Cannabis production and distribution facilities would only be able to locate in areas zoned for commercial and industrial service (CIS).

Coun. Natalie Joly questioned the restriction of production and distribution facilities to CIS, as well as why retail stores would be discretionary instead of mirroring the allowances for liquor stores.

Planning director Adryan Slaght said the intent had been to match how liquor stores are regulated.

“If there are some items in here that aren’t correct, we can review and revise for (June),” he said.

Rules for production facilities

The proposed bylaw includes a definition for cannabis production and distribution facilities that would require a building on the property to be used for security purposes.

Those facilities would also need equipment to scrub odours from the air before venting it from the building.

Production facilities would not be able to display any signage identifying what the building is being used for and cannot be within 150 metres of a residential district, school property or day care property.

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April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette