At the November 17 Madawaska Valley Council meeting, Council directed staff to proceed towards new by-laws on two topics: the use of fireworks and the production, cultivation and processing of cannabis in the municipality.
Al Best, President of the Carson Trout Lepine and Greenan Lakes Association (CTLG), provided Council with feedback from CTLG members including the results of a recent survey about fireworks. He said about 67 percent of CTLG members were in favour of more restriction, 45 percent wanted a total ban on fireworks with 43 percent opposed to a total ban. Best said it was not just a question of the noise from fireworks, or even the threat of fire; it was also the issue of environmental damage to our waterways. He had researched other lake associations and municipalities, and pointed to the Highlands East By-Law that restricts fireworks to certain statutory holidays. Best pointed out that the MV Fire Chief’s report suggested limiting fireworks in MV to weekends and statutory holidays between the May Long Weekend and Thanksgiving would allow fireworks on approximately 60 days next year and concluded his presentation with the hope that MV modernizes by implementing tighter restrictions that may include permits.
Mayor Kim Love thanked Best and encouraged questions. In response, Councillor Carl Bromwich said he had “problems with a formal shutdown,” agreed there is abuse of fireworks that could be controlled with a tighter by-law to enforce noise and dates, but that Council should “let the cottagers have their fun.” Bromwich said MV has no control over fireworks over waterways which is regulated by Fisheries, to which Best responded that MV could regulate fireworks on the Shoreline Road Allowance (SRA). Councillor Mark Willmer agreed control was needed by reducing the number of days, hours and type of products but that more regulation meant MV had to deal with how to enforce it. Best asked Love if the municipality would conduct public education, to which Love replied education is critical if the By-Law is changed and invited Best to hear the report from Fire Chief Corwin Quade later in the meeting.
In his report, Quade said most complaints related to fireworks being set off late at night during the work week, and continuing for up to three hours. He said the existing Noise By-Law prohibits excessive noise after 1 a.m. and that fireworks are completely banned under the Fireworks By-Law 2019-22 during a Level 2 Fire Ban and Total Fire Ban. He said some municipalities in Renfrew and Hastings Counties had by-laws prohibiting fireworks except on certain statutory holidays or weekends and that most set a limit of 20 minutes for a fireworks event to be conducted during a three-hour period e.g. between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. He said most townships impose a $500 fine for violation. Quade said he didn’t believe in a complete ban as local businesses sell fireworks, but he thought some control should be imposed to allow fireworks a couple of days a week between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. perhaps just during the summer.
CAO/Clerk Suzanne Klatt said it was time to review the 2011 Noise By-Law, but any review should contemplate times when a statutory holiday e.g. Canada Day falls on a weekday and also address restricted products such as fire lanterns. Love requested a single fireworks by-law that would incorporate both noise and fire regulations, saying it would be simpler for the public to have it in one place. Quade added that it could include the list of fireworks products that are banned in Canada; e.g. cherry bombs. Councillor Ernie Peplinski suggested the municipality implement permits so that permit holders agree to take responsibility for any damage. Shulist said in the days before environmental consciousness, fire safety was paramount so letting off fireworks over water was considered the safest place. He agreed with education but said he was not in favour of a total ban.
By that time Bromwich and Willmer had left the meeting, so Love summed up by asking staff to return with a draft fireworks by-law that all members of council could discuss. She requested a compromise “not totally banned, not a free-for-all” that would allow year round residents and cottagers to “all live here together.” She added it should include a provision for a “municipally significant event” if designated by Council. Klatt asked about a setback from the waterways, but Love demurred saying that a lot of people did not have very deep properties along the water and a setback might mean the only place they would have “to set off fireworks is in the middle of their cottage.” She requested more information from staff about setbacks, permits, fees, enforcements. Klatt amended the Recommendation to read: That council direct staff to draft a Fireworks By-law for council consideration as well as the related changes to the Noise By-Law and/or fire-related by-laws.
Cannabis Interim Control By-Law
Klatt touched on the highlights of her report to Council, saying she had consulted with Renfrew County and various municipalities. She proposed that MV hire Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little & Bonham LLP to draft an Interim Control By-Law (ICB) for MV that would put a temporary “freeze” on certain land uses relating to cannabis. This would give MV a year to conduct a study to develop regulations to fit the municipality’s comprehensive Zoning By-Law once approved. She further proposed that County of Renfrew Planning Department conduct the study and review of the comprehensive Zoning By-Law and County Official Plan.
Klatt said that MV would need to pay the lawyers an estimated $500 for drafting the ICB and suggested the costs be paid out of the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund. She also hoped to join with other municipalities in Renfrew County to share the costs of the review to be undertaken by the County planners, about factors such as noise, light, manufacturing issues, odour said Klatt. Love asked that it consider the issue of communal grow-ops; i.e. numerous individuals getting together on a single plot of land where each of them cultivates their own permitted four cannabis plants, resulting in potentially hundreds of plants on a single property. Klatt agreed, saying that some municipalities used separate definitions such as cannabis production facility and cannabis production personal.