Norfolk unable to impose interim control bylaw on methadone clinics
Norfolk County deprived itself of a potentially valuable tool for a prolonged period when it passed an “interim control bylaw” on the introduction of adult entertainment establishments in April.
The bylaw forbids the establishment of strip bars and body rub parlours anywhere in Norfolk for a period of one year.
The county’s goal is to prevent these businesses from setting up near schools, churches and other inappropriate areas while Norfolk’s planning department investigates suitable zoning options.
When council imposed the measure, it was unaware that interim control bylaws cannot be imposed on a piece of property for three years after that same property is relieved of interim control.
Norfolk council learned of this restriction this week when the planning department reported on the possibility of imposing an interim-control bylaw on the establishment of new methadone clinics in Norfolk’s urban centres.
At its March 14 meeting, council asked staff to look into controls on new methadone clinics following reports that the two clinics that arrived in downtown Simcoe several years ago have driven away neighbouring businesses. Once-thriving storefronts in the area of Water Street have since gone dormant.
At that meeting, Simcoe Coun. Peter Black stressed that the clinics are beneficial for people with addiction issues. The question to be explored, Black said, is whether they are compatible with the commercial function of central business districts.
As it happens, staff can still investigate and will report back to council at a later date. However, until that happens, the county has no control over the establishment of new methadone clinics anywhere medical offices are allowed.
“(Interim control) bylaws are considered severe measures on the part of any municipality and the use of such bylaws is meant to be restricted,” Pam Duesling, Norfolk’s manager of community planning, said in her report to council.
Duesling added interim control on methadone clinics “is not appropriate at this time.”
Port Rowan Coun. Noel Haydt deemed this development “unfortunate.”
For his part, Coun. Black said limits on the imposition of interim control bylaws don’t eliminate the land-use issues methadone clinics raise.
“It is a benefit to get people off addictive drugs,” Black said. “At the same time, it would be a benefit to find a better location for it.”
Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is administered in decreasing doses to wean people with opioid addictions off their dependence. Some on Norfolk council have suggested that methadone programs should be administered on an out-patient basis at hospitals and all-purpose medical clinics.