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Councillors “blindsided” by Thorold grow-op

The stench of a Cataract Road cannabis crop has neighbours plugging their noses.

Coun. Jim Handley reported he’s received complaints about a “marijuana facility” at 1278 Cataract Road; “about the odour that’s being emitted from it. I believe municipally, we can do something about it,” he suggested at last Tuesday’s Council meeting. “The fines in place aren’t sufficient and don’t deter individuals from reducing the stench.”

After calling the Cannabis Hotline, Handley determined that “It’s the municipality’s responsibility to regulate and control odours from facilities; be they from recreational or medical use.”

He went on to say that he was “blindsided by the fact that it did exist. I don’t think any of us knew that we have a grow-op here in Thorold. They are a licensed facility. I find it unfair as a councillor, and in the future, we should be notified when people are applying for the production of marijuana. It has to be brought forward.”

Coun. Nella Dekker said she was also “blindsided by a call I received regarding this cannabis area.”

According to Coun. Fred Neale, the town of Pelham “has been going through this, both with the odour and the lighting of these facilities. I believe anyone starting one up has to have the odours controlled. Pelham is putting forward a bylaw, and we should have everything covered for having a project in Thorold. I didn’t realize we had one in Thorold, either.”

Tamara Tannis, the city’s director of planning, advised councillors that with respect to the Cataract Road grow-op, “It hasn’t come as an application” to city staff.

Cannabis “is a crop,” she stated, “and similar to anything that can be grown. We are asking that they be in M4 zones, and that would be the extent of our ability to regulate.”

M4 zoning denotes a special industrial district which provides for the accommodation of light industrial activities under conditions designed to minimize conflict with existing residential uses in areas of mixed development. With respect to similar agricultural concerns about odours—such as those from chickens and other livestock—there are minimum distance separation policies in place to reduce stench spreading to neighbours, Tannis added.

The city does not have the authority to govern cannabis grow-ops, agreed chief building official Jason Simpson.

“Currently, we don’t have a bylaw to regulate them in any manner. Currently, there isn’t anything we can do with respect to the odour at this point in time. Questions regarding the operation can go to Health Canada,” he added. “They take care of the licensing and inspection of these facilities. Farming practices would be dealt with by OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs). Legal complaints would go to the NRP (Niagara Regional Police).”

“The licensing is issued by Health Canada at the federal level,” added Tannis, “and the applicant would have to show that it’s permitted. Odour wouldn’t be part of it.”

After asking whether there’s an application process for new businesses to obtain a license in Thorold, and informed that the city of Thorold does not have a business licensing process in place, Coun. Victoria Wilson asked for a staff report for councillors “to become educated about businesses in our city.”

“Is there any way we can create a bylaw and observe what Pelham is doing?” asked Coun. Carmen DeRose.

“There is technology available, but it’s expensive.”

A staff report on the subject is expected to be brought forward at the April 16 council meeting.