Dion Hopkins speaks to council at a public hearing about his application to rezone the former Stephens Sheet Metal building to accommodate a medical marijuana facility.

Alberni council questions man about marijuana joint

Alberni city council weeded through a Bute Street property zoning amendment to accommodate a medical marijuana facility.

Port Alberni’s second medical marijuana facility has taken another step closer to reality.

A public hearing about rezoning to accommodate the facility was held at city council chambers on Sept. 30.

Only three people attended the meeting, outnumbered by city council and staff.

Dion Hopkins has applied to have the former Stephens Sheet Metal building on Bute Street zoned to accommodate a medical marijuana production, packaging and lab facility.

Councillors advanced the request to a public hearing at their Sept. 23 meeting.

No member of the public spoke to the matter but two written submissions, one from the owner of the Laidlaw Bus Lines building on Fourth Avenue, and another from the Bute Street Veterinary Clinic, were read into the record.

Councillors had a lot of questions about the development for Hopkins, who was present.

The planning department supports a limited zoning text amendment to the specific property as opposed to a broader amendment. City planner Scott Smith later clarified that an amendment to the light industry category could see every property owner wanting a medical marijuana facility.

Several councillors inquired about the potential for a marijuana odour in the neighbourhood. And a letter from the vet clinic on Bute Street echoed the same concern.

Hopkins replied that an extensive filter, screen and ventilation system will be employed. As well, the facility’s previous tenant grew marijuana there and no one complained about the smell, he said.

Councillor Cindy Solda asked about the number of plants the facility will have, as well as about its security procedures.

Dion replied that the facility isn’t a grow facility, but rather a research, production and packaging one. As such, it will have between 10-300 plants on site depending on what’s required.

The facility will have a layered security system that would include a passcard-lock access, motion detectors, night vision cameras and alarms. The building is made of cinder block and would take considerable time and effort to get through, Dion added.

The facility would have fire sprinklers, but the jury is still out on whether or not it is a fire hazard, Port Alberni Fire Department Chief Tim Pley said. “There’s more potential for an indoor fire than an outdoor one,” he said.

Comprehensive fire protection is built into the application via the building code, Pley said. “But we’ll know more after the building permit process,” he said.

No further input will be considered about the matter, nor will councillors be able to discuss the issue.

Council will vote on the application after a report has been presented about it at their next meeting.

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