Council approves bylaw change to allow medical pot grow-ops in industrial park

By on February 5, 2014

Town of Osoyoos council has approved a zoning bylaw amendment that will allow companies to apply to operate a Medical Marijuana Grow Operation (MMGO) in the town’s industrial park.

Following a public hearing Monday night in town council chambers – where only one citizen publicly opposed the project – council voted unanimously to allow for the zoning bylaw amendment that would allow for a large-scale MMGO to operate out of the Buena Vista industrial park.

No written submissions opposing or supporting an MMGO in Osoyoos was received by town staff in advance of the public hearing.

Steve Shannon, a community planner and man responsible for drafting the zoning bylaw amendment, made it very clear to members of council that passing this motion doesn’t mean an MMGO will be opening any time soon in Osoyoos.

What the motion does do, said Shannon, is open the doors for council to start accepting applications from potential business owners who would be interested in applying for a business license from the town to operate an MMGO in the industrial park.

“This will provide council with discretion to approve a rezoning application for a MMGO as a site-specific permitted use in the … industrial zone,” said Shannon.

Once applications are forwarded, council will be able to consider the potential impacts of an MMGO, create specific conditions of use related to the business and ensure there will be another public hearing prior to the adoption of any further zoning changes related to the grow operation, he said.

The bylaw amendment also states MMGOs will only be permitted indoors in stand-alone buildings, no other uses shall be permitted, including a dwelling unit, and any MMGO must follow all other applicable municipal, provincial and federal laws.

Effective April 1, Health Canada will no longer allow individual Canadians to hold their own individual permits to purchase medical marijuana.

Instead, hundreds of large-scale commercial MMGO’s will be licensed by Health Canada and they will be able to produce and distribute medical marijuana from their facilities to tens of thousands of Canadians.

Julie Wolter, who owns a home on 115 Street near the south entrance to the industrial park, was the only person who voiced an objection to the proposed MMGO at Monday’s public hearing.

“I’m very opposed … I don’t want it next to my back yard,” said Wolter.

There are more than 110 homes located in a residential neighbourhood close to the industrial park and many of them are concerned about safety, possible strong odours and health hazards that would come with a large-scale commercial medical marijuana facility, said Wolter.

Wolter admitted that she’s opposed to the project because it has the potential to be located too close to her property.

“I admit that I don’t want it in my back yard,” she said. “I don’t want to live next door to any place that is growing it.”

Jim King, who also owns a home on 115 Street, said he wasn’t opposed to the idea of an MMGO opening in town as long as it was located a good distance away from any residential neighbourhood.

When asked by Mayor Stu Wells and a couple of members of council if staff would recommend a possible site anywhere near a residential neighbourhood, Shannon responded no site has been selected and it will be up to council to create specific conditions of use related to any MMGO opening in town.

The only company that has showed interest in opening an MMGO in town, Canna-Pharma Inc. from Vancouver, is looking at a site in the industrial park, but on the north end and far away from any homes near the park, said Todd Zatwarniski, who attended Monday’s hearing with business partner Lou Helmes, a retired RCMP officer who is part of the company’s management team.

Zatwarniski told council the site they are looking at is more than 1.5 kilometres from any home.

The facility would use “best practices” established to operate similar facilities in Washington State and Colorado – both states recently made marijuana legal – including a charcoal filtration system and state-of-the art infrastructure, he said.

“We want to be a part of this community and we think we have something positive to offer,” said Zatwarniski.

Canna-Pharma Inc. was established in early 2013 with the mandate to produce, distribute and conduct cutting-edge research in the field of medical marijuana, said Zatwarniski.

His company officially applied to the Town of Osoyoos to open and operate a commercial medical marijuana grow operation (MMGO) last fall and has been scouting sites in the town’s industrial park over the past several months.

Wells said he wanted members of the public to be assured there will be another public hearing process when and if a company is selected to apply for a business license to operate an MMGO in Osoyoos.

Coun. Michael Ryan said he wanted assurances any MMGO facility would have to be under 30,000 square feet, which is similar to a current bylaw that prohibits any “big box retailer” from opening a large store in Osoyoos.

Coun. C. J. Rhodes wouldn’t support Ryan’s motion saying he didn’t “see any comparison between a big box store and this project” and it will take up too much staff time to draw up an additional bylaw relating to limiting the size of any MMGO.

However, Wells and McKortoff supported Ryan’s motion and staff will now prepare an amendment to the bylaw relating to limiting the size of the facility.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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