Council Update: Cannabis production, Barrington Street

Cannabis growing facility under construction, Sackville Business Park. Photo: HRM

Cannabis Planning Bylaws: A rather routine Council agenda. The main item of interest was the public hearing to consider some narrow amendments to the Regional Plan and each community’s specific planning bylaws to regulate cannabis production facilities. This wasn’t a public hearing into the controversial Nuisance Bylaw changes regarding smoking, it was the where cannabis can be produced at an industrial scale question.

The amended planning rules that HRM adopted restricts cannabis production to industrial and rural mixed-use zones. Basically, large-scale industrial cannabis facilities will be situated in locations that already permit industrial or agricultural uses. HRM will also require an additional setback from any nearby residential buildings of 70 meters. The 70 metre setback is due to potential odours from what are, essentially, large scale grow-ops. The 70 metres setback is the same as what Ontario recommends for industrial facilities and that is already in place in Toronto.

Now closed dispensary on Barrington Street. Photo: News 95.7

In addition to the production facility rules, HRM also put in place a ban on cannabis-related retail sales by anyone except the NSLC. While the retail ban attracted a fair bit of attention from activists, HRM really wasn’t making much of a decision here since the Province has already restricted retail sales to the NSLC.¬†All the privately-owned dispensaries around town are currently operating outside the law and, regardless of what HRM opts to do with its planning bylaws, they still will be after October 17. If the Province decides to loosen restrictions in the future to allow for private retail sales, then HRM will need to revisit this issue to craft reasonable rules about where cannabis retail/dispensaries can locate. HRM’s retail restrictions are more of a placeholder amendment to ensure that the municipality will be able to give thorough consideration to where cannabis retail can happen if the Province decides to relax retail rules in the future. The cannabis bylaw amendments passed unanimously.

Barrington Street: Council approved an exciting bit of work for Barrington Street north of North Street. This four-lane section of road is a very hostile space for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders and, because the lanes are unusually narrow, it’s not a particularly great place for large vehicles either. Over the last several months, the road has been reduced to three-lanes while the Department of National Defence works on the retaining wall alongside the eastern section of the street. The reduction to three lanes during construction hasn’t caused the world to end traffic-wise. This isn’t surprising considering that the four-lane section of Barrington abruptly becomes two-lanes at Devonshire, well short of the Mackay Bridge. With no major streets between North Street and the Mackay to take traffic off Barrington, this means the effective traffic capacity is pretty-much two-lanes.

So how did we end up with extra lanes to nowhere? This section of Barrington is a one of several overbuilt pieces of roadway around town that were created for a 1960s vision of how the city would function that was never fully implemented (Prince Albert Road north of Sinclair, Victoria from Albro to Highfield, Alderney Drive are Dartmouth examples that come to mind). What these places are today are opportunities to reclaim wasted asphalt to make better spaces for active transportation and transit. With that in mind, HRM is looking to make the three-lane layout of Barrington permanent and reuse the space from the fourth lane to extend the Barrington Greenway from its current endpoint at the Macdonald Bridge to the already existing bike lanes at Devonshire. Barrington is a street that the Integrated Mobility Plan identifies as a potential transit corridor and this reallocation of space does still leave HRM with options for transit priority and to hopefully bring the Barrington Greenway all the way to Africville.

This new approach to thinking about streets that is taking hold in HRM is very exciting. The Integrated Mobility Plan provides the policy context, staff have increasingly bought-in to new ways of doing things, and there is strong political support from Council. I’m very optimistic that we’re on the cusp of seeing significant transformations in how our streets function. Council approved piloting the new layout on Barrington Street and, if all goes well, a potential permanent project in the 2019/2020 budget.

Before
After

Other:

  • Scheduled a public hearing for the proposed asphalt plant in Timberlea/St. Margaret’s Bay
  • Received a presentation on the Events East Business Plan (Convention Centre) and approved their budget
  • First reading to repeal some outdated bylaws from before amalgamation, and a new private road maintenance bylaw
  • Awarded a tender for the Burnside Transit Centre roof replacement
  • Initiated a planning process to allow residential rather than commercial uses on the front portion of a development on Portland Place in Halifax
  • Approved an administrative order for real property transactions that sets the financial thresholds for staff approvals
  • Requested a staff report to improve the environmental analysis that goes into HRM staff reports
  • Met in camera to approve the draft contract with CUPE for crossing guards and for a property acquisition in Porters Lake

 

 

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