CBK briefs diplomats on reconciliation initiatives

The heads and representatives of the diplomatic missions were appraised about the work being carried out by ONUR so far and the initiatives planned ahead. Chairperson of ONUR and other public officials including Esala Weerakoon, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other ministry secretaries and the Director General of ONUR also attended the briefing. (Colombo Gazette) Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who heads the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, today briefed the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka on the reconciliation initiatives of the Government.The briefing was held at the BMICH and the diplomats were updated on the reconciliation initiatives, ONUR said. read more

Marijuana setback relief denied

A local marijuana producer is weighing his options now that Norfolk council has turned down his request for an exemption to the county’s cannabis-production regulations.Council’s unanimous vote came at the end of a two-hour public meeting Tuesday under the Planning Act.Council’s decision was a relief to residents of Townsend Road 14 east of Blue Line Road.Single-family dwellings surround the greenhouse operation on three sides. Families have been complaining about the strong smell of marijuana in the neighbourhood since the 2.1-acre greenhouse was converted to cannabis from vegetable production three years ago.The facility belongs to Sean Zheng, who lists Townsend Road 14 as his address.The Norfolk regulation at issue requires greenhouses producing cannabis to be at least 150 metres from sensitive land uses such as housing if the greenhouse is fitted with odour-mitigating technology. The same regulation requires a setback of 300 metres if the greenhouse lacks this equipment.The home closest to the Zheng greenhouse is 39 feet (11.9 metres) away. As well, the Zheng greenhouse is not fitted with odour-mitigating technology. Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman wanted to know why Zheng was seeking relief from the 150-metre requirement when he is in violation of the 300-metre setback provision of the county bylaw.“I find it offensive that this request is even being made,” Huffman told Zheng’s planning consultant Gary Blazak, of London.Blazak responded that an odour-control system is on deck. Before it is installed, Blazak said his client wants assurances that he will be allowed to grow 1,300-plus marijuana plants at any given time.Blazak tabled a peer-reviewed engineering study which said the odour-control system at issue will be 100 per cent effective.The Zheng greenhouse is one of at least 50 grow-operations of its kind that have sprung up in Norfolk County in recent years. The advent has been so rapid because – like the Zheng operation – these greenhouses were built in recent years to produce vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers.Stacey Smith of Townsend Road 14 lives less than 100 metres from the Zheng greenhouse. She told council that life in this part of Norfolk has been “a nightmare” since the greenhouse was given over to marijuana. The problem is a strong, constant pungent odour from the plants involved.Smith delivered a unique demonstration of what she and her neighbours have endured in recent years.Smith went to the front of the council chamber and poured a small amount of liquid skunk essence into a plastic container. She wafted the fumes throughout the space with a hand-held electric fan. The unpleasant odour reached all corners of the cavernous chamber.Smith also thought Zheng’s application was a little much given that he was basically asking to be exempted from the county regulation.“If we’re going to allow 92 per cent setback relief, what’s the point of designating `sensitive land uses’ in the first place?” she asked.“These applicants have never been in compliance. This has always been an illegal operation going on three years now. Now they ask to be rewarded with 92 per cent setback relief?”Zheng’s planning application also sought relief from the requirement to provide 62 parking spaces for an industrial property this size. Zheng wanted this reduced to nine. Zheng attended Tuesday’s meeting but did not speak.Zheng has options moving forward. He could acquiesce to council’s decision and stop growing marijuana at this location. He may also refer council’s decision to the Land Planning Appeal Tribunal. A court challenge under Ontario’s right-to-farm legislation is another possibility.“You have to comply with the zoning bylaw, but you also have to comply with provincial policy,” Jennifer Meader of the law firm Turkstra Mazza said on Zheng’s behalf.“You have to recall what was before council tonight. It was the setback and the parking issue. It’s not the use. This is a permitted use, and that’s acknowledged in the staff report.”Meader was asked in an email Wednesday if the path forward was clearer the day after council’s decision. Meader however was involved in a Land Planning Appeal Tribunal hearing and unavailable for comment at press time.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com