Today’s Poll

Cannabis micro-processing now allowed in new zoning bylaw for city’s west end

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
February 14th, 2020

Cannabis culture can now be officially included in the Railtown culture.

The city has approved a zoning amendment bylaw to allow cannabis micro processing in both the mixed-use commercial and residential zone (MU3) and the waterfront mixed-use commercial and industrial zone (MU4) in the city’s west end.

The community response with regard to the added cannabis processing use has been supportive, said city deputy corporate officer Gabriel Bouvet-Boisclair.

An open house was held on the proposed changes, noted a staff report on the matter.

“The feedback from residents evidenced overall support for the proposed changes, including incentives to encourage mixed-use developments and a request for land for affordable and supportive housing,” the report explained.

Cannabis micro processing is a federal license class that allows processing of up to 600 kilograms (1,322 pounds) of dried cannabis per year, while standard processing facilities allow more.

Both cannabis micro and standard processing facilities may be located on the same parcel as a residential use, however, the current federal site requirements for standard processing differ significantly from those for micro processing.

Standard processing facilities require continuous visual monitoring and intrusion detection systems, which may create obstacles to co-locating with multi-unit residences. Bouvet-Boisclair  did not recommend allowing land uses which detracted from the Railtown SNAP and Official Community Plan (OCP) mixed commercial/industrial-residential designations.

“Given several large undeveloped lots in these areas, a large scale industrial facility may be incompatible with more intensive residential development,” he said in his report.

As part of the public engagement process over the last few months regarding the changes, Thoughtexchange was employed by the city, with over 60 participants generating 48 thoughts with 656 ratings, posing the question of “What are your thoughts on cannabis processing in the City of Nelson?”

The city staff report noted that 35 of 43 Thoughtexchange responses encouraged the city to take advantage of local economic development, tourism opportunities, increased local taxation and serve as a “hub” for the region’s cannabis industry.

The prohibition on drying fresh cannabis was removed, given the minimal public concern expressed with odours, compared to the interest to take advantage of opportunities.

Indoor urban agriculture

The new definition of indoor urban agriculture was included in the new bylaw changes, defining the indoor production of plants for wholesale or retail sale, including culinary mushrooms, sprouts, vegetables and herbs but excluding the cultivation of cannabis and activities that emit hazards or light pollution.

The Zoning Bylaw prohibits odorous, toxic or noxious matter or vapours or noise exceeding 65 decibels over a one-hour period to be emitted across lot lines.

The MU4 zone was created to preserve the city’s limited industrial land base, while the current regulation to force mixed-use land developments in the MU3 zone were removed (a barrier to development).

Instead, it was recommended that mixed-use would be encouraged through parking relaxation incentives.

Parking relaxations drew some fire in the open house.

“Some Railtown land and business owners expressed concern over any off-street parking reductions, as this is perceived as unfair to businesses that provide the required supply, and may contribute to parking congestion in the area,” said Gabriel Bouvet-Boisclair.

“But the Downtown Parking Strategy is expected to help address congestion in the neighbourhood, although a certain amount of congestion is indicative of a healthy downtown.”

Railtown is a SNAP

In 2016 council endorsed the Railtown SNAP to support anticipated demands for new jobs, better physical and visual connections to downtown and Rosemont, brownfield and ecological restoration, improved public spaces and residential/commercial mixed-use opportunities.

Implementation began in 2018 with:

  • amendments to the Official Community Plan (OCP) that required that all new development in Railtown aligns with the SNAP;
  • creating a new Railtown Core commercial zone (C4) to allow live/work units, mechanical sales and multi-unit residential uses;
  • amending the OCP land use designations and rezoning Railtown C1 (core commercial) parcels to C4;
  • under the Off-Street Parking and Landscape Bylaw:
  1. including the new C4 zoned parcels in the ‘downtown parking area’ to enable a relaxation of off-street parking requirements for mixed-use developments that include a residential component, and reduces off-street parking requirements when car-share stall is provided;
  2. allowing a proportion of required stalls to be accommodated on a newly created street or road as part of a new subdivision/redevelopment on the Baker Street extension; and
  • updating the Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw to include standards for works and services for the new C4 zone.

— Source: City of Nelson

Taking it to the streets

There were several ways in which the city engaged Railtown land and business owners and the broader community on the proposed bylaw changes and additions for Railtown.

City staff traveled door-to-door throughout neighbourhood to talk with land and business owners — around 50 were contacted — and extend personal invitations to the open house on the matter.

That open house in late September was attended by roughly 40 people, including some land and business owners from the neighbourhood.

In addition, information was provided on the city’s website and through social media. 

Custom indoor manufacturing

Another new definition was added into the bylaw: custom indoor manufacturing.

This is a use providing for small scale, on-site indoor production of goods by hand, manufacturing primarily involving the use of hand tools.

Typical uses include but are not limited to: toy and musical instrument manufacturing, specialty food and beverage products, blacksmiths, artist studio, pottery studios, woodworking, textiles prototypes and product design, innovation and incubation spaces. It could also include accessory retail sales, educational programming, product sampling, indoor or outdoor seating but excludes cannabis products.

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