The Regular Council meeting of April 11, 2018 was attended by a record number of members of the public. While most people were patient and respectful, Council was forced to adjourn the meeting when one person was disruptive and refused to leave the meeting when asked to by the Mayor.

The item for discussion was a proposed amendment to the Zoning bylaw, which would prohibit the production, sale or distribution of recreational cannabis within the municipality. Council had been discussing the planned federal law to legalize recreational cannabis for several months. The bylaw was introduced on February 28, and was intended to be an interim measure, to allow Council additional time to create appropriate local regulation. They do not wish to consider any applications for business licences or land use amendments regarding the production, sale or distribution of recreational cannabis before they are satisfied that they have a full understanding of the municipality’s obligations under federal and provincial laws that have not yet been finalized. A public hearing on the proposed bylaw was held on March 28, at which several people spoke against it.

As the meeting was adjourned early, Council did not have an opportunity to discuss or give final reading of the bylaw at the April 11 meeting.  The bylaw, which will not affect medical marijuana, will be discussed at the next regular meeting on April 25.

“I have asked Council members to consider appointing a select committee to investigate how to proceed with recreational cannabis regulation, so we’ll discuss that at the next Council meeting,” said Mayor MacDougall.  This committee may be formed whether the bylaw is adopted or defeated.

Because of the rules of procedural fairness established by case law, a council should not hear new information on a topic that has been the subject of a public hearing, between the public hearing and the adoption or defeat of the bylaw. According to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ Fact Sheet No. 17 – Public Hearings, “After the hearing, the council… may not hear from or receive correspondence from interested parties relating to the rezoning proposal. They can hear from their own staff, lawyers and consultants (Hubbard v. West Vancouver, 2005) but if they receive a delegation or correspondence they will be, in effect, reopening the hearing and will run the risk of having the bylaw quashed. Although a council or board is often tempted to pursue an outstanding or new issue after the hearing, the local government generally should not entertain new information or hear a party affected unless at a new hearing.”

For more information please contact the District of Fort St. James:
Name:        Kevin Crook, Chief Administrative Officer
Phone:       250-996-8233
Fax:           250-996-2248