More than 20 people attended a public hearing on the regional district’s proposed zoning bylaw amendments on cannabis production in the Coombs area.
Attendees had some concerns they relayed to Electoral Area F Director Julian Fell, who presided over the hearing held at the Bradley Centre on Feb. 6.
The Regional District of Nanaimo has proposed amendments to Bylaw 1285.31 and Bylaw 500 in response to the federal government’s pending legalization of non-medical cannabis this summer.
The current bylaws allow production of only medical cannabis. The bylaw amendments will include recreational or non-medical cannabis and also clarify the language used in the bylaws to reflect federal legislation on production of cannabis.
In bylaw 1285, cannabis production facilities are currently permitted on land within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and within the Industrial 2 Zone in Electoral Area F. The bylaw amendments propose to also include cannabis production facilities as a permitted use on land zoned Industrial 1 and Industrial 3.
The board has granted first and second reading to the amendments. Before the board considers third reading, the public was given the chance to provide input and feeback to the proposed changes.
At the hearing, the RDN was able to listen to a few comments. Most of the concerns focused on production of cannabis on agricultural land. Respondents don’t agree with it.
Among them was Theresa Leface of Errington, who wants cannabis production to be limited to the industrial zone only and not include the agricultrual lands.
Dave Coombs of Port Alberni also does not agree that agricultural land should be used for cannabis production. He calls it “foolish.”
“I thought we won the lottery when I heard my old mother’s place over here is going to be zoned for marijuana. And then I find out it’s going to be on ALR land also,” said Coombs. “I couldn’t believe it would actually say go ahead and cover up all the nice green ground with a bunch of cement buildings.”
One resident was disappointed that there are no discussions on the use of agricultural land for cannabis production, which under the current bylaw is permitted.
“Essentially, right now, any land in the ALR is allowed to have a commercial growth facility,” said Paul Thompson, RDN Manager of Long Range Planning. “The provincial agricultural commission has allowed permitted use so we have to get in line with that.”
Fell said because of provincial dictate, the RDN has no option.
Sandy Forest from Coombs Road had concerns about the possible runoff and effluent that would be coming from the cannabis facilities, which she said may contain pesticides and fertilizer.
She said these should be regulated to prevent them from contaminating ground water or waterways.
“This is heavy-duty industrial agriculture, and they can affect the water,” said Forest.
All input and feedback the RDN received from the hearing, as well as online, will be presented in a report to the board before third reading of the bylaw amendments will be considered.