by Isabel Mosseler
Cannabis may be now be legal, but West Nipissing municipal council is looking at possible legislation to control the odors emanating from growing plants in residential neighbourhoods. The amendments to the nuisance bylaw, proposed by Ward 1 Coun. Lise Sénécal and discussed at the May 19 council meeting, have garnered a flurry of comments on social media, largely negative and suggesting that the supporting councillors are wasting time, energy and money on trying to suppress a recently affirmed legal right.
Coun. Sénécal repeatedly told council she had no wish to suppress anyone’s rights, but residents also had a right to enjoy their own property. She was responding to “numerous complaints” regarding a legal medicinal pot grower on Belanger St. in Sturgeon Falls. She wants an amendment to either the nuisance bylaw or the cannabis bylaw, to give officials some force to control the skunk odour from grow-ops. Advocating for the complainants, she submitted a comparative bylaw from the jurisdiction of Hamilton, as an example to follow.
Sénécal garnered the support of fellow councillors to examine the option, with Coun. Jeremy Seguin of Verner being the lone objection. Coun. Séguin suggested that trying to legislate smells was regressive, citing the annual scents wafting over town from agricultural practices. Coun. Chris Fisher of Field also noted in his opening address, “The cannabis stink is quite offensive to some people. In essence I agree with what Coun. Lise is saying, but I think it’s dangerous to legislate smells. Does that mean we’d have to shut the sewage plant? Chip stands smell greasy and that upsets some people as well. I think we have to be careful with this one.”
Coun. Sénécal told council, “I received a call at 9:30 at night to get out… and I just had to roll down the window – I think I got a buzz.” She directed complainants to town hall to register their complaint, but because the grower was within their legal rights, neither the building inspector, the bylaw enforcement officers nor the OPP could do anything. Sénécal then did some research, admitting that it was difficult to regulate smells. “I checked health and safety law, people have a right to sit in their driveway and yard to enjoy as everyone else… The only one that can do it (legislate) is the municipality… We have to do something… One family has a 6-year-old child that doesn’t go out to play because of the smell… It’s getting to the point something is going to happen; those neighbours are not in a good place… I’m not trying to stop people growing their plants, but by doing so in the right way so it’s not affecting their neighbour… Start with the bylaw and amend it.”
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