River’s Edge resident Lehann Wallace delivered a petition brimming with 332 signatures to regional district officials on Tuesday in an effort to stop a medical marijuana facility from setting up shop in her neighbourhood.
“One-hundred per cent of residents in River’s Edge contacted are opposed,” Wallace told the board at the RDN committee of the whole meeting Tuesday evening before handing over a hefty stack of signed papers.
“We’re calling upon the RDN to seek the authority to stop this application from proceeding at this location.”
A Vancouver-based company, Wildflower Marijuana Inc., has submitted an application to Health Canada 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. The company is reportedly also looking to open a similar facility south of Nanaimo.
Wildflower Marijuana officials did not respond for comment to this story by press time. The company did issue a news release Aug. 7 stating “Wildflower Marijuana Inc. is pleased to announce that it acquired an option on a Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations application… the application includes a site located on Vancouver Island.”
Alongside Wallace, two other people criticized Wildflower’s application, claiming the facility would disrupt their quaint Nanoose Bay neighbourhood. They raised aquifer, groundwater, traffic and security concerns.
Siding with the residents, Parksville Coun. Marc Lefebvre made a motion to send a letter to Health Canada opposing the issuance of a licence for the facility.
While the majority of directors voted in favour of the motion, which will be ratified at the next regular RDN meeting slated for Sept. 30, some directors voiced their concerns over singling out one operation in the area when there are many Health Canada applications currently pending.
“Residential zoning is a problem throughout the RDN and this is not an exclusive problem to the area,” said director Jack De Jong, who represents Lantzville. “The next thing you know, they (medical marijuana producers) will be purchasing land in another area next to a number of houses and there will be another delegation sitting here addressing the same issues.”
Qualicum Beach Coun. Dave Willie agreed.
“There’s a number of what some would consider industrial operations on agricultural land,” said Willie. “So I think it’s a bigger concern than just one piece of property — it’s a much bigger picture and I’m not sure just banging on one thing at a time will give us much impact at Health Canada.”
Willie said he wanted to refer the issue to the RDN’s agricultural committee for comment.
Director Bill Veenhof, who represents Deep Bay/Bowser, echoed his fellow board member’s comments saying “with all due respect to the people sitting here, there’s nothing special about this one (application) — we need to look at this in a much larger context.”
Veenhof said sending a letter to Health Canada targets the “wrong audience.”
“It’s really about the Agricultural Land Commission and Ministry of Agriculture having wholesome discussions about each licence with the regional districts and municipalities affected by those licences,” he said, noting residents in his electoral area voiced concerns over a similar project eight months ago, and the RDN didn’t respond by issuing a letter to Health Canada.
However, Lefebvre called this application “a very serious situation,” urging fellow directors to vote in favour of his motion.
“It has serious impacts for the residents in question and the Englishman River, which is part and parcel to what we need in Parksville and the Regional District of Nanaimo,” he said. “I don’t see any problem with sending this off now.”
Chair Joe Stanhope reiterated his support for the residents.
“It (River’s Edge neighbourhood) is in my electoral area and I certainly oppose it,” he said.
After a majority of directors voted in favour of sending a letter to Health Canada pledging their opposition to Wildflower Marijuana’s proposed facility, the chamber erupted in loud claps and cheers from residents.