A rural Nelson regional district director says he hasn’t made up his mind about a zoning application for a commercial medical marijuana operation.
A North Shore couple has applied to rezone their 40-acre residential property as agricultural, which would let them grow medicinal pot and employ up to ten people. They were previously denied a variance application.
Although they don’t yet have a license, they’re hoping to be among the first to receive one under new federal regulations that took effect last week.
However, the two dozen or so neighbours who turned up for a public hearing spoke uniformly against the proposal, according to area director Ron Mickel, who chaired the meeting.
One of them, Rocco Mastrobuono, says he’s worried about unwanted attention being drawn to the neighbourhood.
“It’s a lure to people who have a problem with this drug or who want to steal it and sell it themselves,” he said in an interview. “My concern is just that our sense of security will diminish.”
Even if the grow operation itself is well secured, he fears adjacent homeowners will suffer property crime.
“We have a nice, quiet neighbourhood where we can leave vehicles unlocked and still find them in the morning. We want it to stay that way.”
Neighbours also felt the 24-hour security and surveillance would change the nature of the residential area.
While nobody specifically protested the type of business, Mickel said they were “leery about the risks they were being asked to take. The proponents did a good job answering their questions, but it still takes quite a high level of trust.”
The proponents, who asked not to be named, said they wanted to avoid a confrontational meeting and brought only written submissions of support. They said of the 36 letters entered into the record, 21 supported the rezoning, including a doctor, nurse, and the North Shore water utility.
“One small group of neighbours who do not even share our access road has gotten together to create resistance, grasping at straws with regards to our zoning application,” they said.
They believe they have addressed every issue raised, including security, odour, and traffic. Some concerns, they added, were based on old regulations governing medical marijuana and wouldn’t apply under the stringent new requirements.
“Under these new regulations, we will not be allowed to impact any of our neighbours negatively. We will be clean, quiet, and have very little traffic. We will fit in better than any previous uses of this property and create far less traffic.” (The property formerly had a working nursery.)
Despite the opposition, the couple feel Mickel and the regional district handled the meeting well. “We believe the RDCK will come to the right conclusion, providing some sorely needed jobs in this area and keeping in tune with the spirit of the Kootenays.”
Following further discussions with the proponents, regional district planners are expected to present a recommendation to the board on July 18, but directors will ultimately take their cue from Mickel, who hasn’t decided which way he’ll go.
He says if the application is successful it could mean some welcome employment and “it would be nice for Nelson to be known for a legal activity rather than illegal stuff.”
But if it’s turned down, he doesn’t want it interpreted as the regional district being opposed to medical marijuana. “We’re not opposed to a valid business,” he says. “But the site does present some difficulties.”
Other licensed medical marijuana grow operations exist within the regional district, but all are believed to already be on agricultural land. The board recently passed a resolution restricting medical pot operations to such areas.