NOTL considering increased setbacks on pot production facilities

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The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is considering increasing setbacks for marijuana production facilities when they are located near residential areas and other sensitive properties such as churches, schools and playgrounds.

On Monday at a public meeting, several residents spoke in favour of increasing setbacks to limit the smell emanating from the facilities which also impact their property values.

St. Davids resident Andrew Stewart said the smell is so bad at times from the medical marijuana facility Tweed Farms, a subsidiary of Canopy Growth Corp., on Concession 5 that he can't open his windows or go outside.

Stewart said when he and other neighbours have complained to the company, they get "silence, threats and excuses."

He recommended that the town enact a bylaw requiring a setback of at least 500 to 1,000 meters between the facilities and neighbouring properties. Stewart said if companies are able to control the smell through filtration systems, then the town could consider reducing setbacks later.

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"Do you want this (the town) to be a prime destination for wine tourism, or do you want it to be a pot producers' paradise," he said. "They are not compatible."

Sue Bates, who has lived on Larkin Road in the rural area for almost 40 years, expressed concern about "traditional" farmers being contracted to grow marijuana crops for the large companies. She said an increase in these type of crops "would definitely impact the quality of life here in Niagara."

Tweed Farms representative Sean Webster argued against increasing setbacks for growers. He said that would prevent his company from continuing to upgrade and modernize its facility in its efforts to mitigate odours.

Tweed Farms' project manager Brinley Sorley said four types of odour control techniques are being currently tested and the company is always looking for new technology.

Brian Lillos, an Old Town resident who uses medicinal marijuana, suggested that an air filtration system requirement be part of the bylaw.

"I'm not going to eat a peach that smells like a doobie," he said.

St. Catharines resident Brian Grant, who owns two houses in Niagara-on-the-Lake, said the smell, not the setbacks, are the main issue. He said marijuana is a billion-dollar industry that brings a lot of money to the region.

Pointing out that marijuana will be legal in October in Canada, Grant said, "People are going to have to adjust to that.

"I feel Niagara-on-the-Lake should adjust to it, too."

NOTL community and development services director Craig Larmour said after the meeting that staff hopes to have a new bylaw recommending increased setbacks before by council in September.

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