Len Lyons, left, and Reg Cocks stand on the corner of a house under construction along Great Central Lake Road. The hills in the distance are the site of a proposed cannabis industrial park that would see both indoor and outdoor cannabis growing facilities. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Sproat Lake residents oppose large-scale cannabis production in their neighbourhood

Community group calls public meeting for Aug. 21 to discuss implications to ACRD land

A group of Sproat Lake residents have organized a public meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 21 to discuss industrial cannabis production and its implications.

The issue sprung up after Wild Coast Canna held a public meeting to reveal plans for an industrial ‘cannabis campus’ on rural property between Airport Road and Great Central Lake Road. The original plans called for a 200,000-square-foot enclosed building plus 50 acres of outdoor cannabis production.

Residents who live along Great Central Lake Road complained that the proposed property—formerly known as Pine Dell Farm—is 500 metres away from Sproat Lake Provincial Park’s upper campground, and right next to a lot where a family with young children are building a home. There are other residents who live close to the proposed cannabis plant too.

“We’re opposing large-scale cannabis projects in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District,” said Reg Cocks, who has lived at Sproat Lake for the past 30 years.

READ: Cannabis ‘campus’ planned for Alberni Valley

Residents driving the issue have examined similar bylaws around cannabis use and cannabis production facilities in the Comox Valley Regional District, City of Nanaimo and Kelowna. One of the reasons they say companies are attracted to the Alberni Valley is because the rules here are more lenient.

“My feeling is the ACRD has dropped the ball on this. They’re not representing the people,” Cocks said.

Residents are worried about water sources, smell from both the indoor and outdoor production facilities and health ramifications. The meeting isn’t about saying “not in my backyard,” Cocks said. It’s about taking more time to establish rules that would see any such production done in an industrial area—not near residential neighbourhoods or tourism areas.

This is the second industrial cannabis proposal the regional district has dealt with: another company proposed earlier this year building an indoor facility on Beaver Creek Road. That proposal is still under discussion.

Those who have organized this public meeting are hoping people in other areas of the ACRD will attend to share their thoughts on large-scale commercial cannabis operations and what can be done to prevent them from being built close to residential areas within the regional district.

Wild Coast Canna has changed the estimated size of its building to 377,000 square feet of indoor operations and 50 acres of outdoor cultivation, according to its website.

When asked if Wild Coast Canna was invited to the public meeting, Cocks and others said the company had not returned any of their phone calls so they weren’t able to ask.

The public meeting will take place Wednesday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m. at the Sproat Lake Community Hall (9346 Bomber Base Rd.).

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