City of Port Alberni will hold a virtual public hearing about cannabis production within city limits on Monday, Sept. 14.
Discussion about cannabis production and processing facilities within city limits began in 2019, but was delayed by coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Port Alberni city council has already given first and second reading to the proposed regulations, but a public hearing must take place before third and final readings.
“The next step in the process, now that we’ve had some time to evaluate the pandemic situation and determine the process for public hearings, is to then proceed with scheduling a public hearing in order to allow for more public input on the application,” said city planner Katelyn McDougall during a virtual council meeting on Monday, Aug. 10.
The city’s proposed regulations for cannabis production and processing facilities have incorporated some public input, following a lengthy public engagement process last year, McDougall said. The city also looked at what other communities are doing.
The current proposed approach permits certain types of cannabis production facilities in industrial zones and limited commercial zones, with additional regulations to mitigate odours, noise, air quality and clustering of cannabis uses.
Some councillors expressed concern about holding a public hearing via videoconferencing, instead of in person.
“It may not give enough people in the community a voice on this subject,” said Councillor Debbie Haggard.
But before COVID-19, Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out, the city did not even livestream public hearings.
“I know that the idea of a public hearing by Zoom is very different than what we’re used to,” said Minions. “I think that [city staff] has given great consideration to making sure that people have as much access—if not more access—to our public hearings as they always do.”
The city held its first ever virtual public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 8, with only one member of the public attending to provide input.
Monday’s public hearing will take place via videoconferencing at 6:30 p.m., and the public can choose to join through Zoom or through a phone call. Anyone wishing to participate must pre-register with the city’s clerks department by calling 250-720-2823 or 250-720-2810.