• Saturday , 28 January 2023

Bylaws for cannabis regulation move Peachland in a greener direction

Joanne Layh

The District of Peachland may be receiving applications for cannabis operations next month if all goes well and council gives final adoption to a package of bylaws at their Sept. 8 regular meeting. If the package of bylaws are approved, the application period should be set to open the following day.

At the August 11 council meeting planning and economic development technician Matt Faucher introduced the last two supporting bylaws to be amended prior to opening up the application period and moving through the licensing process for cannabis retail and cultivation.

Back in June 2019, council directed staff to develop a modified business licence process for the approval and ongoing operation of recreational cannabis stores in Peachland. Last November council gave third reading to the Cannabis Zoning Regulations Bylaw that triggered the need for amendments to supporting bylaws. The last of such bylaws up for amendment are the district’s current Development Application Fees Bylaw and Building Bylaw.

The Cannabis Zoning Regulations Bylaw considered by council last November allows for up to two recreational cannabis retailers as well as individual and commercial cultivation.

Last week Peachland council gave first, second and third readings to both the Building Bylaw and Development Application and Licence Fees Bylaw.

“In moving forward with potentially offering cannabis development in the industrial lands, we needed to have some firm grounding with respect to our building bylaw. There was a great deal of concern from our new building inspector with how he would manage these types of developments under the existing bylaw,” Faucher said. “Additionally, with respect to climate change and knowing that that is important for council, we included Step One of the Step Code to start bringing buildings into the way they ought to be in the future…so we’re taking the first step now to get everybody to be comfortable with that program and moving in a greener direction.”

“I’m really pleased to see the introduction of the Step Code into the bylaw. I think that’s a really important move forward and I think everybody on the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Change will be very happy to see that development,” Councillor Keith Fielding said.

As part of the process of updating Peachland’s bylaws to incorporate regulations for the sale, cultivation and processing of cannabis within the district, the planning department consolidated fee schedules from the Development Application Fees Bylaw, Building Bylaw and Business Licencing Bylaw into the new Development Application & Licence Fees Bylaw.

“The consolidation of the various fee schedules into one bylaw increases the ease of use of the document, as well as creates a single location for users to find applicable information of the fees associated with their project proposals and business operations,” Darin Schaal, director of planning and development services, said in his report to council.

Faucher told council that in an effort to gain understanding of fee structures for cannabis related businesses in other communities they reviewed the fee bylaws and policies in seven municipalities in the Okanagan (Lake Country, Summerland, Kelowna, Osoyoos, Penticton, West Kelowna and Keremeos) and one in the Lower Mainland and found significant variation between communities.

While some communities have implemented minimal fees with respect to cannabis related business, others have adopted substantial fees for licences and permits related to cannabis operations.

Of the communities reviewed, for non-medicinal cannabis retails stores, application fees range from $0 to $9,880, annual business licence fees ranged from $100 to $9,460, while application fees for cannabis cultivation range from $0 to $550 and $100 to $9,460 for annual business licences. No comparison data was found for cannabis processing.

In his report to council Schaal said given the significant variation in application fees and annual licence fees required in the regional communities reviewed, without an indication on how the fee amounts were established, it is difficult to identify a ‘going rate’ for cannabis related applications and annual licencing fees.

The rates Schaal proposed to council follow a cost recovery approach to recoup the expenses borne by the community.

The fees take into consideration estimated staff time, staff time costs and legal time. The resulting fee structure is as follows:

Non-medicinal cannabis retail store:

• Application fee $5,000; and

• Annual business licence fee $250.

Cannabis cultivation and processing (micro licence):

• Application fee $2,500; and

• Annual business licence fee $250.

Cannabis cultivation and processing (standard licence):

• Application fee $5,000; and

• Annual business licence fee $500.

Cannabis cultivation and processing on non-residential lands under an ACMPR licence:

• Application fee $500; and

• Annual licence fee $250.

“I think that the application fees are fair for the cannabis, but I do think the annual business licence fee is way too low,” said Councillor Patrick Van Minsel. “I would really recommend that we look at higher annual business licence fees and not just look at cost recovery. Some of this money we can use to do other things.”

Councillor Terry Condon said he finds the business licence fees are appropriate.

“I think some thought has gone into it,” Coun. Condon said. “We want it set at an appropriate level. I think the approach that has been taken by Matt in doing this in terms of cost recovery is entirely appropriate. I think it’s improper that any authority should take advantage and make a cash grab in these types of places.”

Coun. Condon added that if it is not working, they can change it.

Councillor Keith Fielding agreed the fees should be structured to recover the municipality’s costs.

“The report shows that we’ve gone through a lot of trouble to accurately figure out what those costs are and to distribute them in such a way that we don’t lose money by processing applications,” Coun. Fielding said.

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