By John Swartz
At its last committee/regular Orillia council meeting two issues with far-reaching effect were decided upon.
The first, the City’s marijuana outlet regulation contained in the municipal code was up for a couple amendments. One was to remove trails for the list of places retail stores would not be permitted to locate near. This was not a huge issue.
Defining how to measure the 150 meter setback from a list of locations does not seem to be important, but defining how to make the measurement is if a retail store application is for use of only part of a building.
Just having it on the agenda opened the door for councillors to ask questions in light of three applications pending with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to allow stores at 30 Diana Drive (shopping plaza on University Ave.), 69 Mississaga Street E. (current location of Happy Dayz) and 81 Mississaga Street E. (corner of Peter Street)
The City’s by-law states a marijuana store cannot be within 150 meters of another, and other types of facilities like schools.
“I’m pretty sure all of the locations you are talking about are within 150 meters. One hundred fifty meters is a football field and a half. I’m pretty sure you can’t put one and a half football fields between the corner of Mississaga and Peter and the Steenhof building, nor the OMAH, which is a City facility and the methadone clinic on the other corner,” said Councillor Tim Lauer. The Steenhof building is a reference to earlier discussion there will be a new business in that location (which is across Mississaga Street from Brewery Bay Food Company).
Aside from several councillors questioning the City’s ability to object, or prevent approval of licenses to operate, Councillor Cipolla brought up the aesthetic issue of the signs put in the windows at 81 Mississaga.
“I’m just opposed to the way the one looks at Peter and Mississaga with that signage and everything else,” Cipolla said. He also wanted to know if they would be required to have included a message for children walking by about any danger to their use of marijuana.
“That existing signage does not adhere to the City’s sign by-law and that particular business owner has been notified of this and is actually in the process right now and working on new signage that will totally adhere to signage criteria as per chapter 832 of the City’s municipal code,” said Orillia manager of legislative services, Shawn Crawford. He also said Ontario regulations do not allow for any product to be visible from the street.
On the Steenhof location, councilor Ted Emond wanted to know if, based on knowledge a medical clinic is going in there, staff had included the information in any correspondence with the AGCO. Medical clinics for addiction treatment are on the list of locations marijuana stores can locate near.
“The criteria doesn’t apply to just any medical clinic, the medical clinic needs to provide addiction treatment services,” said Crawford. The City’s list of locations reflects what the province set out in its criteria.
Crawford said there is no indication of approvals being granted.
“We’re not clear whether the AGCO is going to issue those licenses or whether or not they will take into consideration the City’s criteria or not,” he said. “We should know soon, but I don’t know right now.”
Sunday In The Park With God
City council stepped into territory some might consider they shouldn’t. Parks and recreation staff put a proposal for regulations regarding permits to hold church services in parks.
There have been a few requests for permits lately, and staff anticipate there may be more. Currently there is no policy and only one group has been given a permit on occasion because staff believed it was low key and early enough in the morning to not cause complaints.
“This is our means to try to come up with a consistent policy. We could make it more restrictive and just not allow them at this time,” said the director of community services, Ray Merkley.
Councillor Jay Fallis did not object in principal, but he did say he was against doing anything at this time based on the pandemic.
“In normal circumstance I think I’d be open to considering it. I think right now with the COVID pandemic ongoing, my personal belief is it sends the wrong message,” said Fallis.
“I don’t really see a huge ethical problem with it. I’m a member of St. Paul’s and I think way back we had done a church picnic at Couchiching Beach Park,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the worst idea in the world.”
No other councillors objected to the idea, but Councillor Tim Lauer wanted to know if it was possible to outline which churches could be allowed. He seemed to be alluding to fringe denominations and not ones currently present in the City. He wanted something added to allow staff to have some discretion giving permits.
“We could get some strange requests, who knows, and I think it would behoove us to have some sort of mechanism to deal with them right up front, as opposed to letting it get too far down the line before its considered inappropriate,” said Lauer.
“Certainly that is something we could do a little more research on to see if there is a definition we think we could insert within it. That may make take a little bit of time to do that. I’m hesitant a little bit to try to think of how we differentiate,” said Merkley.
Councillor Rob Kloostra thought it might be prudent to have some wording restricting permits to churches established in Orillia and not those from outside the community.
An amendment by councillor Cipolla to postpone the motion until next year to avoid any pressure to allow permits while COVID restrictions are in place failed and the main motion passed.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)