Wild Coast Canna looks for new location for micro-cultivation cannabis facility

Vancouver Island regional district forced to re-run cannabis hearing

Wild Coast Canna Inc. is re-thinking its plans for a large-scale cannabis facility west of Port Alberni.

The company cites proposed changes to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s cannabis zoning bylaws as the reason why it is now considering a new home for its “cannapark.”

Wild Coast Canna announced last June its plans for a cannapark would have seen a 377,000-square-foot cement based facility dedicated to indoor craft cannabis growing operations, and a further 25 acres of outdoor grow operations built near Port Alberni’s municipal airport. The company had an agreement to purchase the former Pine Dell Farm property situated between Great Central Lake Road and Airport Road, a few kilometres west of the city.

READ: Cannabis ‘campus’ planned for Alberni Valley

“We’re not pulling out, we’re just examining all the options that we have to push our project forward,” said Brian Harris, CEO of Wild Coast Canna. “The way it’s unfolding with the ACRD it’s obvious the bylaws are going to be changed. That just won’t work for us any longer,” he added.

“We have an obligation to our stakeholders to move ahead.”

Harris’s plan involves micro-cultivation: he envisions multiple small-craft cannabis growers utilizing the larger facilities, much like the craft beer market champions small, localized breweries.

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

The ACRD’s proposed bylaw amendment would prohibit all new cement-based buildings for cannabis production as a permitted use in all zones (including A1, A2, A3 and M1), leaving no legal options for indoor cultivation in the region. Outdoor cultivation is still permitted in the Agricultural Land Reserve, which is provincially-regulated.

Wild Coast Canna could still use the property that is within the ALR for outdoor cultivation, Harris confirmed. While they won’t be able to submit building plans for the cement building they had in mind if the bylaw is approved, they are considering whether they could break up the micro processes into different locations: growing in one place, extracting cannabis products in another, research and development somewhere else, he said. The company’s designers are also looking at whether greenhouses—set on a dirt surface and not cement—would be a suitable alternative.

“While this is a setback for the industry, we hope in time, this community will begin to acclimatize to new norm of cannabis legalization and begin to treat cannabis as the legal agricultural crop that it is,” Harris said.

“Until then, we remain committed to building a home for independent micro-cultivators in another location and are in discussions with a number of communities that have expressed keen interest in our project.”

Wild Coast Canna’s statement comes on the heels of the ACRD announcing it will have to re-run its public hearing on the proposed changes to its cannabis bylaw after some rules were broken.

The hours-long public engagement session took place on Tuesday, Nov. 19 and drew more than 100 people to the Cherry Creek Community Hall to talk about increased regulation for cannabis growing facilities.

READ MORE: Alberni Valley residents ask ACRD to put brakes on cannabis industry

But CAO Doug Holmes explained during a board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 27 that “at least” two letters were accidentally ommitted from the public agenda. He added that conversation also took place with area directors after the public hearing, which isn’t legally allowed.

“We’ve talked to lawyers about the situation and, based on our conversations, we are recommending to the board to re-do the public hearing,” said Holmes.

Before a new public hearing takes place, the board will also be reviewing and updating its public procedures bylaw. The current bylaw states that correspondence from the public can be sent to any of the board of directors, staff or ACRD reception, which is how letters are sometimes missed.

“It is conceivable that there could be another letter lurking out there in the spam folder of one of the electoral area directors that we don’t even know about,” added Holmes.

ACRD staff will be “tightening up” the correspondence process so that the public knows where to send information in the future, reducing the possibility of documents going astray.

The new public procedures bylaw will be brought back to the ACRD board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 11, after which a new public hearing will be scheduled.

The ACRD board was supposed to give third reading to its cannabis production bylaw last Wednesday, but that has been delayed until another public hearing takes place.

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