Cannabis policy and bylaw to go to council

A series of amended bylaws and a revised policy setting out how the city will treat cannabis sellers and growers will be presented to city council on Monday night.

Pending council approval, cannabis retailers will be able to set up shop within select commercial zones.

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The sites will not be "pre-zoned." Rather, each will require a separate rezoning application and approval from city council.

The stores to be no less than 1.6 kilometres from each other and their hours set at 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., with council reserving the power to increase or decrease them on a case-by-case basis.

Both retailers and growers will also pay the city $5,000 per year for a business licence, which staff said is consistent with the rates charged by other B.C. municipalities for these types of businesses.

As per the existing bylaw governing medical marijuana grow operations, properties to be used for cannabis production will be at least 15 hectares in size and have at minimum 150-metre setback from any parks and schools.

As well, there must be a 30-metre setback from the property line for the facility, rising to 60 metres if there is no screened buffer.

As well, the term "cannabis" will replace all previous references to "marijuana" in the city's existing bylaws and the product has been essentially folded into the city's existing liquor licensing policy.

The relevant items will be up for first and second reading.

Also on the agenda:

- Coun. Brian Skakun will seek council's support for a proposal to heighten the battle against illegal garbage dumping.

Specifically, he has put forward a motion to direct administration to work with the Fraser-Fort George Regional District to develop a strategy to reduce the practice.

"Illegal dumping has negative effects on natural areas and to the overall cleanliness of our community. There have been reports of illegal dumping within the City of Prince George specifically in areas surrounding Foothills and Tyner boulevards," Skakun says in a report included on the meeting agenda.

The FFGRD "faces the same challenges," Skakun continues. Along with the regional district, he suggested key stakeholders such as the Spruce City Wildlife Association be included in the process.

- Tourism Prince George is asking council members to decide whether a tax originally intended to pay for promoting the city to tourists will also be applied to affordable housing projects.

Visitors to the city currently pay a three-per-cent levy on the cost of a hotel or motel room and raises about $1.1 million a year for Tourism Prince George.

The provincial government has added affordable housing as a permissible use of the funds raised to help address local housing needs and ensure tourism workers can find housing.

There are provisos: Revenues from online-based services such as AirBnB can be used for affordable housing but spending of those raised through traditional venues remain subject to approval of 51 per cent of the city's hotels and motels.

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