Sproat Lake resident Reg Cocks listens to a question during a public meeting about commercial cannabis production, hosted Aug. 21 by the Sproat Lake Community Association. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Sproat Lake residents have more questions than answers over commercial cannabis

Sproat Lake residents want to know whether there is any way the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District can ban commercial cannabis production within the ACRD until better rules are examined surrounding commercial cannabis production.

About 100 residents and interested parties gathered at the Sproat Lake Community Hall to ask questions of ACRD planner Alex Dyer and Sproat Lake area director Penny Cote last week.

Residents reiterated their concerns about losing their ground water to a large commercial operation, and about the smell a 50-acre cannabis grow operation would emit close to residential and tourism areas.

Residents said they weren’t saying a complete “no” to commercial cannabis production within the ACRD—they would like the board to put a moratorium on any development permits until more information becomes available.

Angie Fernandes, a director with Wild Coast Canna, said in a telephone interview they want to be good neighbours with their proposed cannabis operation. They have an agreement with the present owner to purchase the land.

Wild Coast Canna was not invited to the public meeting; organizers said they weren’t able to reach anyone from the company.

At an open house in June the company said the closed facility would be “more than 200,000 square feet”, but the company is now saying the building plan is 377,000 sq. ft. Fernandes said the initial number “was an error on our end. It is larger.”

The building would be built on a plot of non-ALR land near Airport Road that is approximately 25 acres. The 50 acres of outdoor grow operation would be behind that, between the building and Great Central Lake Road. The plan would be rolled out in three phases, with the outdoor production being the final phase.

Fernandes said while the 177-acre Pine Dell Farm property does not border Airport Road, there is a plot of Crown land between their proposed property and the road, and the Wild Coast Canna intends to apply for a permit to build an access road through the Crown land.

Wild Coast Canna is undergoing a feasibility study “to analyze the water source on the property,” she said. “We’re committed to ensuring we’re moving forward in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Planner for the ACRD Alex Dyer said he hasn’t received a building permit application for the proposed facility yet.

Russell Dyson, who owns Coleman Meadows Farm on Coleman Road and is also the CAO for Comox Valley Regional District, said he is concerned about the effect a large-scale commercial cannabis operation at the former Pine Dell Farm property will have on his own farm. He also said the ACRD does have the power to halt this proposed operation.

“We’re not saying no to this, we’re saying no to this site,” Dyson said. “All along (the ACRD) have been able to regulate cannabis. You can set the standard for smell that is limited from this plant.”

Cote said they ACRD has already gone through a lengthy process to set cannabis bylaws within the ACRD.

Cannabis “is a commodity that’s a luxury,” Cote said. “It’s not something you need to eat, it’s not something you need for your kids to grow up in a good place. But it needs to find a place.”

The residents’ group will make a presentation at the ACRD board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1:30 p.m. at the ACRD office (3008 Fifth Ave., Port Alberni) in the board room. The meeting is open to the public.

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