Kris McInnes, who owns property on Great Central Lake Road near a proposed commercial cannabis operation, speaks to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board about his concerns. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District acts to limit cannabis production

ACRD board made a move to prevent new construction of cement-based buildings

Sproat Lake residents opposed to plans to build a large-scale cannabis production plant within the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District received a small victory last week. Following an hour and a half of debate, the ACRD board made a move to prevent new construction of cement-based buildings for cannabis production.

Great Central Lake Road resident Kris McInnes brought to the board Sproat Lake residents’ concerns about Wild Coast Canna’s proposed 377,000-square-foot building plus 50-acre outdoor grow operation on the former Pine Dell Farm property. The 177-acre plot of land sits between Great Central Lake Road and Airport Road, and although the company has billed its proposed facility as an Airport Road facility, McInnes said the only legal entrance to the property is a shared driveway with his own property.

Residents are concerned about the smell of cannabis grown outdoors, about where the project will get water—all surrounding properties are on wells from the same aquifer—and the fact the facility would be built close to a rural residential area as well as Sproat Lake Provincial Parks’ upper campground.

While Wild Coast Canna has held an open house to let people know of their proposal, they have not applied for a building permit. Director Angie Fernandes said in a previous interview that they are still undergoing a feasibility study, which includes studying water sources.

Officially, the ACRD board instructed staff to amend a zoning bylaw to prohibit new cement-based buildings for cannabis production in all zones.

Beaver Creek director John McNabb said all through the process of creating cannabis bylaws, which were adopted in September 2018, he said the board needed to step back and consider everything surrounding legalization of cannabis. “One of the problems of this whole thing is the goalposts keep moving,” he said.

Another is that cannabis is considered farm use. “Our ability to restrict the growing of that product is pretty limited.”

Beaufort area director Tanya Shannon said she has also heard concerns from people in her area. “Especially the water and wastewater coming off and other properties it could affect,” she said.

Shannon added that the ACRD needs to support its farmers and food production, and that while cannabis is receiving a lot of government attention right now, there is some question whether it should be dealt with as a food product.

The zoning amendment won’t completely halt large-scale cannabis production within the ACRD: the provincially-run Agricultural Land Commission has stated municipal governments cannot prohibit cannabis grown outdoors on ALR land nor that grown in greenhouses with dirt-based floors.

It will give the ACRD time to consider how it wants to handle large-scale cannabis proposals within its boundaries.

“We’re talking about a building and whether it’s acceptable,” board chair John Jack said. “It’s not whether or not we support (cannabis) or whether or not it should be somewhere. The Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada have stated this is a legal product, it’s an agricultural product, and that’s likely not going to change,” he said.

What they ACRD needs to do now, he added, is come up with a set of criteria “that can be met with certainty”, and move forward from there.

Sproat Lake residents leading the action declined to comment after the vote was taken, saying they wanted more information from the ACRD before they felt comfortable to comment.

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