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Councillors blunt in cannabis opposition

By: Grant Burr

Posted: 02/28/2018 7:00 AM

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If you have a budding interest in cannabis sales, you best know that Steinbach city council may not be ready to turn over that new leaf anytime soon, judging from the reaction of some members sitting around a committee table on Tuesday night.

Council members perused proposed changes to the city's official community plan and zoning bylaw, which are both expected to be updated later this year. The review and changes have been prompted by the city's recent annexation of lands from the RM of Hanover.

Councillors took the most note of the wording to support the establishment of cannabis sales and manufacturing operations within the draft document. Council has yet to make a decision on allowing cannabis sales in the community. Changes that would allow for such activity were a non-starter for some.

Councillor Earl Funk suggested cannabis related passages be removed, noting the city still awaits further direction from the province on the role of municipalities in allowing for cannabis sales.

"When we have the information, we can make an intelligent decision," Funk said.

Others were more direct in their concern.

"I want it removed, out, gone," said Councillor Michael Zwaagstra, who said he would come to a final decision once more information is available. He blamed the federal government's hasty roll out of legalization plans as part of the problem.

Councillor John Fehr was especially critical, floating the idea of creating interim ban on cannabis sales, even while it remains an illegal drug.

"I've talked to law enforcement, I've talked to a lot of people," Fehr told The Carillon following the meeting. "They just see problems. I think our role as council is to try and protect our community."

"I think we need to lead, not follow, so I think if our community does not have an appetite for it...we're growing faster than most other communities are, so why do we want to bring things into our community that we don't think are healthy?"

Fehr's lack of appetite for cannabis sales was rivalled only by his strong advocacy for metal shipping containers, including the ones on his own Trucks Unlimited property.

New policies proposed by the city aim to treat shipping containers like any other permitted accessory building structure.

"I think I have ten of them there and I don't think it's unsightly at all," Fehr said, defending their use.

He suggested the city "might want to declare war on a lot of business people," if it moved to restrict shipping container use. Existing containers, like Fehr's, would be grandfathered under any new rules.

"Sometimes we see these things as people trying to get away with things they shouldn't get away with. I don't think that's the problem," Fehr said following the meeting.

But he agreed with plans to not allow the use of shipping containers on residential properties.

"I think when it comes to residential, I think most people want to have a nice I can't imagine that I would want to have a sea container on a residential property."

The long standing issue amongst council of requiring businesses to pave parking lots next to adjoining gravel roads was also discussed, as were zoning and policy changes for agricultural lands annexed from the RM of Hanover.

Council is expected to continue to review the proposed changes in committee before both plans are presented at an open house and prepared for formal approval later this spring.

Should Steinbach city allow retail cannabis sales? Cast your vote here.

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