Approximately 75 people attended the Town of Vermilion’s Public Hearing on December 3, where they discussed the possibility of passing Bylaw #14-2019. Bylaw #14-2019 proposes an amendment to the land use Bylaw #11-2013 regarding micro-cannabis production at the C4 Shopping Centre District.
Mayor Caroline McAuley welcomed everyone and noted that if defeated, they would have to wait one year before it could come back to council. She also noted that they had not received a development application at that time.
Planner and Development officer, Allan Wilson, noted that it does not include cannabis sales. Lakeland Mall owner, Harp Kehla said, “We were approached by two different companies, and our zoning doesn’t allow for it. We have not signed any leases, and our first step was to approach the town. The way the process is laid out involves zoning, then the lease, then the application process which includes providing a detailed drawing, meeting Health Canada requirements, and a background check from the RCMP. Standard operating practices on all producers from Health Canada across the country include eliminating the transference of odour, avoiding affecting the youth, avoiding contamination if there are visitors to the facility, and no exterior signage.
A big thing for us is obviously our current tenants. The eastern portion of Lakeland Mall is vented separately from the rest of the mall, and if approved would be closed off entirely. A micro-cannabis production facility is a very controlled space, built kind of like a lab. The cost to get into something like this is very high, so to build on an industrial lot, companies would likely go elsewhere. A lease would save them and allow them to exist in a rural area. Facilities like this typically provide about 25 jobs to the community including skilled and unskilled labour.”
Community members had several questions about the proposed amendment and topics surrounding it.
Gary Walsh asked, “Is there going to be any changes in the liquid and solid waste?”
Vermilion & District Chamber of Commerce, David DeVos said, “I come here today representing 13 businesses that feel they may see a decline in business and the odour that may come as a result is a huge concern. If they lose business, their community may lose businesses because of this.
F’Laura n’ Company Greenhouse Owner, Laura Waterfield said, “My concern comes from the fact that as a professional grower, I don’t use any pesticides. The cannabis industry has not had time to catch up to the industry and there are zero pesticides licensed for use in cannabis. There are huge discrepancies on how that can be a threat, and I’ve heard that up to a 20 kilometre radius can be a risk for pests. I have visited closed units and no system is perfect. Cannabis Aphids are my biggest concern; they breed like wildfire.”
Buffalo Trail Public School Board Trustee, Bruce Marriott, read a letter on behalf of the Board of Trustees from Chair Lanie Parr saying, “Our major concern is that the Lakeland Mall building is far too close to Vermilion Elementary School where there are close to 300 children from Kindergarten to Grade 6 learning and playing on playgrounds only steps away from this building. We are uncertain of the potential exposure to the product, the environmental impact of odors in the production process and of the safety and security measures in place to protect our most vulnerable.
We do value our relationship with The Town of Vermilion and respectfully request that any amendment to the land use bylaw to allow cannabis production or any amendment that might negatively impact the children in the community is not passed.”
Allan Chase, St. Jerome’s Principal said, “Why would we put it in the mall? I don’t want to stand in the way of economics, but there are a lot of places we could put it with all the vacancies we have.”
Pink Peony owner, Lexi Stangeland said that she was born and raised in Vermilion and along with her hopes to continue to have a successful business; she hopes that council will think about the small businesses.
Pat Calyniuk noted that the Municipal Guide to Cannabis Legalization states that the location, scale and density of cannabis cultivation and retail facilities will have real impacts for local communities. She said, “The science on emissions is not clear. The normalization of cannabis has real concerns, along with the proximity to schools, residential, daycares, and a dance club.
Brandon Tupper said, “On the Town of Vermilion website the mission for our community is being a ‘thriving, family friendly community’. This is really wrong going next to a school. The County of Vermilion River and several other municipalities are very specific and have a 1,000m separation distance from a school.”
Leslie Bensch said, “With manufacturing and assembling companies as prospects there would be added traffic. With children everywhere, my concern would be access with semis and pollution.
Jim Sanson said, “I had the opportunity to visit a micro-growing operation, and they suggest it be done in an industrial area.”
“Have there been other applications to council regarding micro cannabis production?” asked Mary Bucharski implying other locations.
Mayor McAuley replied saying, “We have no development permits.”
Shelly Corbiere said, “Many are of the opinion that it takes a solid community to raise children. Having a cannabis production facility so close is counterproductive.”
Ruby Samuelson, retired senior said, “It makes me wonder the caliber of our council because it will affect our insurance and taxes; just think of the water they are going to use.”
Following the hearing, Mayor McAuley said, “I’m overwhelmed by today’s attendance of the Public Hearing and proud of the residents who had enough passion to come out; this is amazing! We are going to consider everything we’ve heard and make a decision in the best interest of the community.”
The topic will be brought back at the regular council meeting for the Town of Vermilion on December 17.