Some Lumby residents taking up the fight against rural cannabis facilities | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Some Lumby residents taking up the fight against rural cannabis facilities

December 11, 2018 - 6:00 PM

LUMBY - Kevin Rouck's family roots go back deep on Shafer Road in Lumby. He's a fourth-generation man who's lived on the property for decades, with ancestors stretching back 70 years. He knows the area better than practically anyone.

So when construction started near his home in mid-February, he took notice. He asked around and learned that a cannabis production facility was scheduled to move in. Concerned, he spoke with his representatives about the facility, but he wasn't able to glean much information.

Ten months later, Rouck is joining a group of citizens to voice their concerns about the future of the cannabis facility at the Regional District of North Okanagan Board of Directors meeting tomorrow.

"It's a top priority for me," Rouck said. "We're totally blindsided by it."

At the Dec. 12 meeting, the board will vote on whether or not to authorize the cannabis facility to submit a non-farm use application to the Agricultural Land Commission. If that application is successful, the facility will have the green light.

According to an information report, Green Amber Corp. is applying to create a cannabis production facility at 95 Shafer Road, which falls in Area D of the North Okanagan. The property is also on the Agricultural Land Reserve. The company began excavating the area last winter, planning to build a 107,749 square foot facility to employ approximately 30 people. In June, the company submitted a Building Permit application, which was under review in July.

On July 13, B.C. approved Order in Council 380, which requires new indoor cannabis production facilities to have a base consisting entirely of soil to comply with Land Reserve regulations. Green Amber planned to use a concrete base, so they were informed the Regional District could not issue them a building permit.

The report details how Green Amber consulted with the District to find a solution. The report suggests the Board support Green Amber's application to the Agricultural Land Commission, outlining how soil wouldn't be well-suited for production and that the company would attempt to minimize any pollution or noise. The report also notes that Green Amber started its application before the new regulation came into effect.

Rouck and his fellow citizens claim they have no problem with cannabis facilities in general; they just don't want it in their neighbourhood. They claim there was a lack of information about the facility throughout the whole process and now they're scrambling to learn as much as they can.

Rouck said he contacted his area director, Rick Fairbain, for information on the facility, but he claims communication was sporadic. Rouck thinks the public didn't get much chance to give their input on the facility.

"Due process was followed," Fairbain said.

A public hearing was held on Dec. 6. People voiced their concerns about the facility. However, Cherryville resident Ariel Watchel feels the hearing was too little, too late.

"We're not feeling we're informed," she said.

Watchel and Rouck have several concerns about the facility. The sheer size is a worry for them, as it may impact the environment and noise levels.

"They've ripped all the trees down," Rouck claims.

Rouck is also concerned with the water usage of the facility. He said water is not overly abundant in the neighborhood and he's worried the facility might absorb too much.

"Who's going to take care of us when the water's gone?" he said.

Rouck voiced his support for cannabis production, but he thinks it belongs elsewhere.

"It belongs on industrial land," he said.

Due to the concerns raised at the public hearing, several recommendations were added to the application tomorrow, such as a hydrologist report, a public information meeting, and demonstration by Green Amber on how they plan to limit their impact on the neighbourhood.

Rouck, Watchel, and others plan to host a peaceful protest during the meeting at 9848 Aberdeen Road at 4 p.m. They want to discuss their opinions once again before a vote is made.

"We've got to do it right," Watchel said, referring to building cannabis facilities in the community with public input.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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