Residents up in arms over proposed pot production facility near Parksville

A horse takes a break from grazing on Thursday at Paradise Acres Ranch, which adjoins the River’s Edge neighbourhood and is purported to be the site of a proposed medical marijuana production facility. That’s the Island Highway just south of the weigh scales in the background. - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
A horse takes a break from grazing on Thursday at Paradise Acres Ranch, which adjoins the River’s Edge neighbourhood and is purported to be the site of a proposed medical marijuana production facility. That’s the Island Highway just south of the weigh scales in the background.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

River's Edge residents reacted swiftly to news a medical marijuana production company wants to set up shop near their homes in Nanoose Bay.

Amber Leppard lives on River's Edge Drive about one kilometre from where she believes Wildflower Marijuana Inc. is proposing to build a 68,000 square foot production facility on ALR land that was formerly Paradise Acres Ranch. Leppard e-mailed a letter detailing her concerns to Health Canada on Wednesday and called The NEWS after the story broke in the Thursday edition.

"The first we heard of this was just a few days ago," said Leppard. "We have a lot of really upset people here right now."

A neighbourhood gathering about the issue is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. at the corner of Kaye Road and Rascal Lane.

"It wouldn't matter if they were growing tomatoes," she said.

“It’s going to be a large, commercial operation in a rural residential area.”

Neither the Regional District of Nanaimo or Wildflower CEO William MacLean indicated a specific piece of land that would be the site of the operation, but Leppard said “it’s quite obvious” it’s the former Paradise Acres Ranch, a 125-acre property with a three-bedroom, four-bathroom, 4,077 square-foot home at the end of Paradise Place, which connects to Kaye Road, the major artery for most of the neighbourhood that’s known locally as River’s Edge. The ranch lands are part of the ALR, were listed recently for $2.9 million and have been sold for an unknown price.

Kaye Road runs roughly parallel to the Englishman River, behind the weigh scales on the Island Highway.

“We moved out there because it’s quiet, peaceful and beautiful,” said resident Suzanne Lowe.

One estimate suggested there are 120 homes in the area, many of them on 2.5 acres, ranging in price from $700,000 - $2 million.

Leppard said her concerns about the production facility include water availability, increased traffic, noise and the possible effect on property values.

Even if the new facility draws from its own well “it will affect our aquifer” in River’s Edge, said Leppard.

“And if this heavy, industrial, commercial enterprise (is allowed to operate here), property values are going to decrease,” she said. “There are multi-million-dollar homes in this area.”

Other residents called The NEWS with similar concerns.

“If it was tomatoes, I don’t think there would be a crime element,” said another River’s Edge Drive resident, Lois Moroz. She acknowledged medical marijuana production facilities are mandated to have security, but she said she believes people will try to break into the facility and steal marijuana, bringing a criminal element to their neighbourhood.

The Regional District of Nanaimo issued a news release Thursday, directing people to send their comments and concerns to other agencies.

“Residents are extremely concerned about this licence application and as an elected official and a member of this community I sympathize and I understand those concerns,” said RDN Chair Joe Stanhope. “I encourage anyone with questions or concerns about this licence application to contact Health Canada to let them know.”

The RDN also said that since the facility is proposed to be located on ALR land, and the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Land Commission permit the production of medical marihuana as a farm use on ALR land, the RDN cannot prohibit the production of medical marihuana on ALR land.

The RDN also said its has not received any development applications related to the proposed facility and is unable to disclose specific location information. If a licence is granted by Health Canada for the production of medical marihuana, the issuance of RDN building permits will be required in relation to new structures or for the renovation of existing structures.  However, the RDN said the issuance of building permits cannot legally require public process and building-permit issuance cannot legally require information to address any potential aquifer impacts. The RDN also said discharge of waste from farm operations is regulated by the Province through the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation under the Environmental Management Act.

The RDN also supplied a list of contact information. For Health Canada, call 1-866-337-7705. Wildflower contact information can be found at The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Vancouver Island district office can be reached at 250-751-3246. Questions regarding waste can be directed to the Ministry of Environment’s Vancouver Island regional office, 250-751-3100.

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