Pot planning: Discussions on how to handle marijuana legalization coming to Halifax council
Marijuana, next steps for Bloomfield, stormwater fees, the Macdonald Bridge bikeway, and Cornwallis Street Baptist Church renos -- all on the agenda this week.
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Halifax is starting to think about how legal marijuana will roll out in the municipality.
In a staff report coming to regional council’s meeting on Tuesday, staff recommend starting the process to consider amending land-use bylaws to determine the best places for marijuana-production facilities and dispensaries in the municipality ahead of next summer’s promised legalization.
The federal government introduced legislation to legalize marijuana this spring. The bill passed first and second reading, and was referred to committee for further debate. The government intends to bring the law into effect no later than July 2018.
The bill puts much of the decision-making power around the sale of marijuana in the provinces’ hands, and Nova Scotia has been tight-lipped about its plans.
The province said it will wait till the government passes the law before determining how it will be sold in the province, but it has set up an interdepartmental working group looking into marijuana policy.
Municipal staff have presented three options to regional council: follow the province’s lead and wait for the bill to pass before considering changes; prepare policies around commercial marijuana production facilities; or prepare policies and regulations for both production and marijuana dispensaries.
Staff recommends the third option.
Currently, commercial marijuana production facilities for medical marijuana are legal in Halifax. While there are no licensed producers in the province, the municipality has already issued two permits for production facilities in industrial areas.
What staff would like to review is exactly where they should be permitted.
“While such production facilities are appropriate in many industrial zones, they may not be appropriate in mixed use zones that also permit residential uses,” HRM principal planner Ben Sivak writes in the report.
And even though they’ve spouted up across the municipality, dispensaries are currently illegal in all forms. The staff report says the only municipalities in the country with policies around dispensaries are in Western Canada, where the storefronts are much more common.
The municipality could have a role in regulating dispensaries if the province decides to allow storefront sales. On the other hand, the province could decide to set up a Nova Scotia Liquor Commission-type system for marijuana, leaving the municipality with no role at all.
Municipal staff want to start considering how it would regulate dispensaries while keeping an eye on the province.
“Staff will initiate a policy review of cannabis dispensaries, and define any interim measures that could come into place while the Provincial government is working on the broader legislative framework for Nova Scotia,” Sivak writes.
Also coming to council on Tuesday:
What’s next for the Bloomfield property?
Halifax regional council will be asked Tuesday to decide what happens next for the Bloomfield property.
Council deferred the decision in June to make time to discuss the property with all of the interested parties, including the people at Imagine Bloomfield, the Halifax Regional School Board, and the French school board, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial.
Coun. Lindell Smith told Metro last month that he hoped to come up with an amended motion after meeting with those groups to finally move the project forward after years of delays.
Stormwater right-of-way fee flows back to council
After regional council voted earlier this year to put the responsibility for collecting the stormwater right-of-way fee back on Halifax Water, it will debate exactly how to do that.
The fee originates from a 2013 Utility and Review Board order that the municipality pay Halifax Water $3.9 million annually for stormwater run-off from municipal streets and sidewalks. Halifax Water used to collect a $39 fee from homeowners itself. Council voted in 2015 to bring the fee in house and up it to $42.
That had some unintended consequences – some people had to pay multiple times – and council voted earlier this year to reverse its decision.
Municipal staff are recommending that council amend a bylaw to have Halifax Water levy a uniform charge on its customers who already pay for stormwater run off on their own property.
That fee would be $39 per home or large building, like a condo or apartment building.
The other option is to charge homeowners based on how much they pay Halifax Water for their stormwater, meaning homeowners would pay between $10 and $50, and large buildings could pay up to $2,500.
The last step for the Macdonald Bridge Bikeway project
Halifax regional council could give the final go-ahead for long-awaited the Macdonald Bridge bikeway project on Tuesday.
Council’s transportation committee approved the $7.4 million project last month. The project would see new cycling infrastructure built on both the Halifax and Dartmouth sides of the bridge by 2020, designed to make it easier to bike on and off the bridge.
The most high profile piece of the project is a ramp that will take cyclists coming off the bridge on the Halifax side up North Street almost to Gottingen Street, but it also includes new bike lanes on both the Halifax and Dartmouth sides.
A new look for Cornwallis Street Baptist Church
The Cornwallis Street Baptist Church could be getting a makeover if Halifax regional council votes to allow a substantial alteration to the heritage property on Tuesday.
The municipality’s Heritage Advisory Committee recommends allowing the renovation, which would include a new library, kitchen and offices, and “significantly enhance the accessibility of the facility and increase the amount of community space available.”
The church, originally known as the African Baptist Church, was built in 1832, and renovated in 1914.
“The proposal would maintain and restore the front portion of the Cornwallis
Street Baptist Church, which would ensure that the character defining elements of the building would remain intact,” the staff report before council on Tuesday says.
“Staff believe the changes proposed for the property will not detract from the heritage value of the property, nor affect the character defining elements.”