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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council notes for Monday, December 17

by Sylene Argent

Essex to decide on opting in or out for Cannabis retail store in new year

Essex Council spent around an hour discussing how to handle the “opt in” or “opt out” options for recreational cannabis retail, but ultimately decided to make that decision at the January 14 meeting, giving administration time to launch an online survey to collect some public input.

  Municipalities have until January 22 to “opt out.” They can “opt in” later, if they so choose. They, however, cannot “opt in” then “opt out.”

  Administration had put forward a Report to Council that suggested “opting out for now,” until more public engagement has been conducted to garner resident thoughts and concerns.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy wanted Council to wait on making a decision to “opt out” even temporarily, as she wanted time to digest the information the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and OPP presented at the meeting.

  “I feel like if we opt out, it will be a while before we opt in,” Bondy said, based on her experience as a Councillor. She also felt it was unfair to make a decision on Monday when the issue was placed on the meeting agenda, which went public the previous Thursday, not giving anyone with counter points an opportunity to speak to the issue.

  She added when Ron Rogers was on Council, at his suggestion, the Town sent a letter to the province about interest in the matter. Now, she felt the Town could be flip-flopping.

  Rookie Councillors Kim Verbeek and Joe Garon both noted they wanted to speak to their constituents before making any decision on the issue.

  Eric Nadalin, Manager of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, made a presentation to Essex Council regarding considerations for Cannabis Retail, as did Sargeant Kelly Labonte, Essex County O.P.P. West Operations Manager, Member of Community Street Crimes Unit.

  Nadalin noted cannabis was the most commonly used illegal substance in Canada, with young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 using the most.

  He noted the regulations from the provincial government continue to change, but as of now, it will issue 25 licenses across the province for cannabis retail stores to begin in April, with more to be phased in.

  Nadalin spoke of potential health effects, a timeline of the Board of Heath’s activity on the file, and current regulations, which includes such a facility must have 150 meters between the store and a school. The government, he added, is committed to providing $40 million over two years to assist municipalities with the implementation cost of recreational cannabis legalization.  

  The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Nadalin said, is encouraging municipalities to “opt out,” at least for now.  

  Sargeant Labonte suspects the quality of black-market products can not be trusted, and that there not necessarily any laws to address odour issues.

Council further receive the Planning Department’s Report “Cannabis Retail Stores.”

  The report suggested Council, for now, opt out of allowing cannabis retail stores in the Town of Essex, in order to allow for consultation with stakeholders and members of the public to facilitate the development of a Municipal Cannabis Retail Policy Statement;

  Essex CAO Donna Hunter said the recommendation from administration to “opt out for now” would allow the Town to hold consultations with stakeholders and residents. This will give residents a voice in the Cannabis Policy Statement that administration will create. The policy, it was noted during the meeting, can be presented to the AGCO, the regulator for recreational cannabis stores, when deciding any potential licensing for Essex.

  Once the Cannabis Policy Statement is in place, the Town can “opt in,” if Council wishes to do so. With the Christmas shutdown, there is not enough time to sufficiently engage the public before the deadline, she noted.

Bench donation for William Gould

Suzanne Allison, Raymond Gould, and Bruce Tribute appeared before Council as delegates. They asked the Town to receive a steel bench in honour of William (Bill) Gould for the Heritage Gardens Park, near the memorial Spitfire. It was hoped the Town would donate the concrete pad for it.

  Gould, Allison said, was an RCAF veteran, who spent three years serving during WWII.

  It was noted the Town has a bench program, which this project did not go through.  

  Council decided to allow for the bench to be placed at the requested site and that the delegates fundraise for the concrete pad. Several Councillors noted they would donate to that.

 Site specific rezoning for 1466 County Road 13

A majority Essex Council vote will allow the property at 1466 on County Road 13 in Harrow to have a zoning to allow the property be used to develop a medical office, and any use accessory to the main use, through amending Bylaw 1037, the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw for the Town of Essex.

  Residents who live adjacent to the property, Brad and Alice Laporte, noted they were against the change. The applicant, Max Abraham, said he received a list of recommendations from neighbours and agreed to them all. He said he wanted to increase access to medical services in Harrow.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said he was against the change because those near the site bought their properties assuming they would live adjacent to other residential homes, not a medical building. Mayor Larry Snively also voted against the change.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said she wanted Essex to send the message it was open for business.

  This issue was tabled from the November 19 meeting.  

Essex Town Centre Limited Rezoning Application

Essex Council voted to provisionally adopt Bylaw 1766, to amend the Town’s Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw and received the report “Essex Town Centre Limited Rezoning Allocation, R Valente, Agent (Essex Centre-Ward One). It also received letters of opposition.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he was still not in favour of 40’ lots. He said he wanted to see a layout. He was not in favour of the motion, nor was Councillor Morley Bowman.

  The rezoning application was submitted for lands situated south of Maidstone Avenue West and east of Highway 3. The zoning revisions requested are related to future commercial uses and to the mix of dwellings and their design within this large residential subdivision of potentially 400 to 600 dwelling units.

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