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River's Edge residents pledge to continue fight against proposed medical marijuana production facility

Wildflower Marijuana Inc. CEO William MacLean, left, answers questions posed by River’s Edge residents, including Lehann Wallace (with the microphone) at a meeting in the neighbourhood on Tuesday night. - CANDACE WU PHOTO
Wildflower Marijuana Inc. CEO William MacLean, left, answers questions posed by River’s Edge residents, including Lehann Wallace (with the microphone) at a meeting in the neighbourhood on Tuesday night.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

River’s Edge resident Lehann Wallace said she’ll “stop at nothing” to protect her neighbourhood from a medical marijuana operation proposed for land adjacent to the quaint Nanoose Bay suburb.

“We are going to do whatever it takes to stop it,” Wallace told a crowd of more than 100 people Tuesday night, including fellow disgruntled neighbours, regional district officials and the CEO of Wildflower Marijuana Inc., the Vancouver-based company causing all the commotion.

Wildflower Marijuana is proposing to build a 68,000 square foot medical marijuana production facility on ALR land that was formerly Paradise Acres Ranch, a 125-acre property that comes with a three-bedroom, four-bathroom, 4,077 square-foot home. Wildflower CEO William MacLean declined to comment on weather the company has officially purchased the land, or if the deal is contingent on Health Canada’s licence approval. Wildflower is also reportedly looking to open a similar facility south of Nanaimo.

The proposal came to light last week after The NEWS reported on the looming development idea, which is now in the hands of Health Canada.

But it doesn't seem welcome by the show of support rallied at Tuesday evening's meeting at the corner of Kaye Road and Rascal Lane (the neighbourhood's old mailbox site), where dozens vowed to ensure the facility stays far away from River's Edge.

Wallace, who led the informal meeting, started it off by asking MacLean a question echoed by many in the crowd: "Why do you feel this location (1085 Paradise Lane) is appropriate for your commercial medical marijuana grow operation facility versus industrial land that's zoned for it?"

MacLean said the company has looked at hundreds of properties for their facility and continues to look for appropriate locations.

"Our personal mandate was to find properties that were large enough and use small enough components of the property that are not highly visible," MacLean told the crowd between interruptions from residents in the audience. "We don't have people in real close proximity that are affected by it."

He said the facility's production will be based on demand and could end up being a much smaller operation, potentially of only 10,000 square feet.

While MacLean's responses didn't seem to appease residents, he offered: "We're going to be bringing scientists, academics and doctors here to study and find answers to some of the world's harshest diseases and we're looking to help people . . ."

The crowd erupted in disapproving snarls and MacLean was cut off by a resident who yelled "why can't you do that on industrial land?"

Wallace took the microphone away from MacLean advising "that comment is going to get you in trouble."

"We are absolutely not opposed to the business you're in or what you're trying to do," she said. "We're opposed to you doing it in a residential neighbourhood — end of story."

Wallace said residents are worried about the facility's access points increasing traffic in the otherwise private neighbourhood, aquifer issues, groundwater contamination, environmental sustainability and security issues.

"We will not rest, we will not stop until you call me and say your application has been withdrawn," Wallace passionately cried at MacLean, followed by loud claps from residents.

Sixteen-year-old Kiera Sims attended the meeting with her parents and younger brother.

"I don't think it's a good idea," she told The NEWS after the meeting. "He (MacLean) didn't seem to have the answers to any of our questions."

Meanwhile RDN chair Joe Stanhope attended the meeting, pledging his support behind the River's Edge community on behalf of the regional district.

MacLean said last week the company planned on investing more than $40 million in the two facilities (Nanoose Bay and south of  Nanaimo) over the next four to five years and the Nanoose Bay location would create around 50 jobs.

The River's Edge subdivision has an estimated 120 homes in the area, many of them located on 2.5 acre parcels ranging in price from $700,000-$2 million.

MacLean said the company will take the concerns of River's Edge residents into consideration, a reason he opted to attend the meeting on Tuesday. He said he would release more information on the project's proposal but could not commit to a specific time.

Wallace said herself and fellow residents plan on appearing at an RDN committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Sept 9. meeting to voice more opposition to Wildflower's plans.

—With files from John Harding

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