Marijuana facility expansion surprises neighbours

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Neighbours voiced opposition to the construction of a large indoor medical marijuana facility planned for Concession 12 near Stayner at a special council meeting Tuesday held to consider a site plan agreement for Peace Naturals Project.

“I was totally blown out of my seat,” said Kristine Bryan, one of three residents to speak against the development. “I don’t even know what to say, I am so upset.”

She said she learned about the proposed expansion while watching the evening news.

In May, Peace Naturals Project announced plans to expand the existing facility, adding a 286,000 square foot production facility, a 28,000 square foot greenhouse and a 1,200 square foot extraction laboratory to the three buildings already in production.

Bryan said it was assumed that with a project of this scale, the municipality would have informed neighbours.

She said she has no issue with the use, but does take issue with the scale and the negative impact the proposal has had on her property value. She said a private sale of her farm recently fell through when they learned of the expansion.

“This has not been handled well,” said Bryan.

Barbara Harvey said she was required to put up a “gigantic sign” to inform all of her neighbours that she was building a porch, yet they were not informed about the expansion.

The reason neighbours were not informed is that the marijuana growth facility complies with the existing agricultural zone on the property, so no public process was required under the township’s bylaws.

Because there isn’t a lot of industrial land in the township the previous council agreed medical marijuana was a permitted agricultural use, said township planner Rossalyn Workman.

On Tuesday, Workman presented a site plan agreement with the intention of ensuring there will be sufficient parking, stormwater management, landscaping and buffering, things the municipality can control. Staff is recommending the new building have a gradient grey siding, to help soften its appearance.

Approvals for the expansion are still forthcoming from the provincial and federal agencies that regulate marijuana production.

“They are making investments knowing they don’t have all the approvals,” said Workman.

Councillor Thom Paterson suggested applying an agricultural industrial zone to the property to spur a public process. He said there is an obligation to engage the public.

“I am not suggesting we are avoiding this intentionally but are we missing something?” he asked. “I’m not sure Peace Naturals wants to be part of the community feeling they were shoehorned in without proper process.”

Councillor Deborah Bronée spoke in favour or approving the site plan agreement saying Peace Naturals Project has been very open about their plans for the business, they have been a good neighbour and will bring additional jobs to the community.

Paterson said he gets that this is a big opportunity for employment and investment in the township.

“The people we represent around this council table are the ones left short,” he said.

Connie Leishman said the expansion proposal took her by surprise and she is the councillor for the ward.

“There must be a way to let people know, especially the councillor of the day, so she can deal with it,” said Leishman. “I’d rather be on top of it than under it… To say I am a little upset is an understatement.”

When it came to the vote, the site plan agreement passed in a 4-3 vote with Paterson, Leishman and Kevin Elwood in opposition and Bronée, Robert Walker, Barry Burton and Christopher Vanderkruys in favour.

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