British Columbia

Tensions soar in Lumby over proposed cannabis facility on agricultural land

More than 100 residents from the North Okanagan community showed up to voice their concerns about Green Amber's application to build a 100,000-square-foot-facility with concrete floors.

The 100,000-square-foot facility would be built with a concrete floor

Aphria, in Leamington, Ont., is expanding its Canadian operation to include 1 million square feet of grow space to meet demand once recreational consumption is legalized this summer. This plant is Aphira's high CBD Treasure Island sativa strain. With no euphoric side effects or impairment it has become one of Aphria's most popular products used for pain relief. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Emotions were high at an information meeting in Lumby, B.C., last week about a proposed cannabis production facility that would be built on Agricultural Land Reserve land east of the municipality. 

More than 100 residents from the North Okanagan community showed up to voice their concerns about Green Amber's non-farm use application to the Regional District of North Okanagan to build a 100,000-square-foot facility with concrete floors.

"It's just the sheer volume and size and the destruction of our ALR property," said Kevin Rouke, who lives down the street from the proposed facility.

"It just blows me away that anybody could say that that is a rural little farming community application."

Meanwhile, neighbour Tricia Cory is concerned about the impact the facility could have on property values.

"We recently listed our house before we saw the application. We've lost offers. We had every interested party walk away because of the proposed facility next door," said Cory.

"Our realtor told us we'll probably have to drop at least $100,000 to get anyone interested in it."

NIMBY mentality, company says

Last Thursday's meeting was hosted by Green Amber at the request of the regional district.

The district's board of directors is in the process of deciding whether to recommend the company's application to the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission. 

"I was a little bit dismayed at the negativity that that folks came in with," said John Fernandes, owner and president of Green Amber.

Fernandes described it as being a "NIMBY [not in my backyard] mentality."

"It's like people just don't want this in their backyard, and there are a few out there that just didn't want this operation at all," Fernandes told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"After the meeting we did hear a lot from folks in the community that were supportive of the facility," he added.

Cannabis hub

Fernandes said they chose to buy land outside of Lumby because he considers B.C. a hub for cannabis production.

"Our focus was to always come to a smaller community because we're not a huge company at all," said Fernandes.

"We were looking for areas where we thought there was room for employment opportunities and we thought that there was expertise." 

Fernandes said he heard the concerns of residents, and they are looking at what other options for building are available to them.

"Nothing has ever been set in stone with our project and, after hearing a lot from from the community and other input from other folks, we are looking at our business case, and we're looking at how we can still operate the facility here."

However, they haven't found an option without concrete floors. 

"When we first came ... we wanted to create medical cannabis, and in creating medical cannabis, you need to have certain rigours and good management practices in place to produce that and that includes the concrete floors piece," said Fernandes.

Rule change

While cannabis is permitted to be grown on agricultural land, in July the province changed the rules to allow municipalities to decide whether to permit cement-based cannabis-production facilities to be built on the land.

"The ban of cement floors is the reason why the application is at the RDNO board table for consideration," said Ashley Gregerson with the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Once the district receives a hydrologist report and other materials from Green Amber, they will decide whether to forward the company's application to the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission for a decision. 

"Ultimately, the ALC makes the final decision," said Gregerson.

   
   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

With files from Daybreak South and Christine Coulter

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