Pitt Meadows moves to ban medical growops

Pitt Meadows is set to ban medical marijuana operations in all zones of the city.

On the recommendation of staff, council voted Tuesday to prohibit commercial medical marijuana facilities in industrial and agricultural areas, joining Abbotsford, White Rock and Langley, which have already moved to stop the enterprises from setting up.

Pitt Meadows banned medical growops from residential areas in 2010.

At a committee meeting, acting chief administrative officer Kim Grout said Pitt Meadows initially supported a plan to restrict the operations to industrial areas, but decided not too after a recent advisory from the B.C. Assessment Authority.

Early indications are that a grow operation in an industrial area may be able to persuade the B.C. Assessment Authority to apply the farm tax rate, rather than the higher industrial tax rate.

That could mean a $1-million parcel of industrial land, generating $110,000 a year in property tax, would instead pay just $25,000 if it hosts a medical marijuana farm.

Given the potential loss of tax revenue, city staff recommended a complete ban, said Grout.

Council agreed.

“Our industrial lands are crucial to diversifying our tax base,” said Mayor Deb Walters, noting that unlike larger municipalities, Pitt Meadows has a volunteer paid-on call fire department and a small police force.

“I don’t think we can afford it.”

Cities have been busy passing bylaws to control where and how new medical marijuana producers will be allowed to set up.

It’s part of the federal government’s move to outlaw home growing of medical pot as of April 1 in favour of large scale commercial production, which is to be tightly regulated.

While some cities have sought to ban commercial pot growing entirely, several others, including Coquitlam, Chilliwack and the Township of Langley, are limiting it to industrial land only, so the facilities aren’t built on productive farmland.

The strategy to steer medical marijuana growers to industrial areas may backfire, Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin fears, opening a property tax dodge for pot producers to exploit.

“There’s potential there for lost revenues,” said Daykin, who raised the issue March 7 at Metro Vancouver’s regional planning committee, and asked staff to investigate further.

“The last thing that any of us want is to have millions of dollars of industrial assessment all of a sudden devalued if it becomes assessed at the agricultural rate.”

If his hunch is right, Daykin said, municipalities may be better off, at least financially, if they follow Maple Ridge’s path and require new marijuana operations instead go on agricultural land.

– with files from Jeff Nagel


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