ARTHUR – Wellington North council wants more information before moving ahead on an application for a zoning change that would allow conversion of an industrial building here for marijuana production.
A public meeting was held on March 22 regarding a proposal from CCR Holdings to rezone a 5.14 acre (2.08 ha) property at 10 Wells Street West in Arthur.
The proposed amendment would rezone the property to permit indoor cannabis cultivation and a processing facility.
The applicants are proposing to retrofit an existing 17,500 square foot industrial building for the proposed use.
The initial application indicated the facility would be for a commercial/industrial operation, states a report from Wellington County planner Matthieu Daoust.
“However, on March 16, the planners representing the client informed planning staff that the zone amendment pertains to a personal medical cannabis growing operation with the flexibility to permit a commercial operator on subject lands in the future,” the report states.
The personal licence would permit a single individual to grow up to 438 plants on site. Only the licensed individual would be allowed to tend to the plants. Under the Health Canada regulations up to four personal medical growing licenses can be located at one address.
“Through discussions with the applicant’s planners it was explained that the Health Canada regulations/standards for a personal licence differ from those required for a commercial license,” Daoust states in the report.
“Planning staff require additional information on the requirements which pertain to elements such as noise, security, ventilation, etc. to formulate an accurate recommendation report for council’s consideration.”
Daoust added, “It’s more permissive with personal licence than commercial licence.”
Ashley Barter, of Malone Givens Parsons, a planning firm representing the applicant, pointed out the current industrial zoning on the property would allow for the production aspect of the proposed operation, but not the cultivation, which is why the zoning change is required.
Barter explained that regardless of whether a private or commercial licence is obtained, the appropriate licensing from Health Canada must be acquired.
She pointed out that properties surrounding the subject property include a chemical plant and a meat processing plant.
She also noted the proponent intends to maintain existing security fencing around the facility and “intends to go above and beyond mitigation requirements.”
“I have great concern about the odour coming out of these places,” said Duke Street resident John Vanderwoerd, who estimated his home is within 200 metres of the proposed facility.
“I run a nice backyard and my wife enjoys gardening in the backyard and if it smells like cannabis, she won’t be happy and I won’t be happy and you’ll be getting a lot of complaints.”
Vanderwoerd told council, “Something like this should not be this close to residential areas,” suggesting 440 plants would require use of a large amount of municipal water.
With “huge developments” planned for the village, Vanderwoerd wondered, “are we going to be short of water?”
He added, “I don’t want to keep complaining about the smell … but if it smells I will be complaining.”
Francois Vallerand, general manager of neighbouring Golden Valley Farms, said, “I’m extremely concerned about having this operation in Arthur for the amount of water it will consume.”
Vallerand also expressed concern about competing for employees with a commercial marijuana operation, noting “Golden valley could accept 10 to 15 new employees tomorrow,” but struggles to find workers.
“We’re turning work away, turning away growth,” he said.
“I don’t’ want to worry about losing 15 to 20 employees because they’re paying a dollar more for now.”
Councillor Steve McCabe asked how effective odour mitigation methods at the proposed facility would be.
Lincoln Lo, another Malone Givens Parsons planner, explained the type of mitigation required by Health Canada would vary greatly depending on whether the facility ends up being a private or commercial operation.
“If it was a personal use facility there’s practically no Health Canada regulation,” he explained.
However, “if it does end up being commercial” it would have to meet Health Canada odour and emission standards.
Lo pointed out personal use marijuana can be grown in spaces such as backyards, so in this case “if it’s personal use, then at least it’s being done in an enclosed building.”
“I actually understand the residents’ concerns,” said Lo, who noted that since a draft amending bylaw has not been presented yet, “it gives us a bit more time to work with staff.”
“I suggest an odour study be done,” said Lo, adding that “through my talks with CCR Holdings, they are committed to doing whatever the report would recommend.”
Councillor Dan Yake asked the planners to provide more specific information on potential water and wastewater usage.
Lo explained the water usage impact for personal use is much less than a commercial use.
“If this is a commercial use then some of the concerns with respect to water usage are valid,” he added.
Lo said in the case of a commercial operation he anticipated a site plan application would be required and a water and wastewater impact study would be done at that time.
Mayor Andy Lennox asked if the township would have any control over a switch from personal to commercial activity if the proposed zoning were approved.
Daoust noted the proponents “have pushed us in a direction to leave it open-ended.”
While the developers currently have a party interested in personal use growing on the property, “the bylaw would be written in a way to permit commercial as well.”
“So if we were to acquiesce to the applicant’s request, we would not have any further opportunity to have any input into this process?” Lennox asked.
Daoust explained “there would be site plans and things like that, where things could be honed into on a detail state …but commercial would be allowed.”
“This seems way too open-ended for me to be comfortable with it,” said Lennox, adding he would like to see more information on the odour issues as well.
“We do have rural industrial land available in the township where it might be more appropriate to have something like this,” Lennox pointed out.
“Certainly more information is needed before we can do anything with this application.”
Lo said he would do his best to compile more information in response to questions regarding water usage, odour mitigation, potential employment level and other matters.