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Application for cannabis cultivation inside city limits receives council approval

Kootenay cannabis is the product ready to begin cultivation in the Heritage city as the Nelson Cannabis Collective received an indoor cannabis operation use designation at 45 Government Road on the edge of the city. — Photo: City of Nelson report

The first legitimate green business has been given the go light from the city.

Nelson Cannabis Collective has been approved for a zoning amendment to allow for cannabis operation at 45 Government Road after city council finally adopted an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw.

With the purchase of the industrial property, the purpose of the project is to build an indoor cannabis cultivation facility, licensed by Health Canada to supply the legal cannabis market.

It has been a long time coming for the once below-board enterprise to emerge and become legitimate, but Coun. Jesse Woodward wondered if the project could be “extra” green.

“Is this going to be built to the highest standards it can be, in terms of efficiency and reduction of GHGs and those kind of questions,” he said.

This is a non-residential building, noted city planner Alex Thumm, so the stipulations that apply to the structure would be contained in later versions of the Step Code

“The best we have, to be honest, is the assurances of the applicant, and the applicant’s architectural firm,” he said.

“We don’t have anything (bylaw) to hold industrial to any certain standards, other than the sustainability commitment that the applicant made.”

With the exception of adding cannabis operation to the zoning for the property, the property’s zoning will remain the same: MU4 — waterfront mixed-use — industrial and commercial zone.

The zoning amendment is site-specific, meaning no other MU4-zoned properties would be allowed a cannabis operation use unless an amendment was applied for.

Under the city’s Zoning Bylaw cannabis operation is defined as “the cultivating, growing, producing, packaging, storing, distributing, dispensing, advertising, trading, consumption, or selling of cannabis or its derivatives but excludes city-approved cannabis retail store.”

Certificate of approval

The Ministry of Environment issued a Certificate of Compliance (COC) for the subject property in May 2016.

The COC said the site was satisfactorily remediated to meet applicable Contaminated Sites Regulation remediation standards and Hazardous Waste Regulation standards, on the following conditions, (which are all met by the present application):

  • New buildings on site must be slab-on-grade construction;
  • No fruit or nut-bearing trees are to be established;
  • Structures or facilities that would attract children (i.e. playgrounds) must not be constructed.

— Source: City of Nelson

The operation

The Collective has a vision that would see the site host several cultivators.

The proposal is for a scalable, indoor cannabis cultivation facility that would include multiple cultivators, each under a separate “micro-cultivation” licence from Health Canada to cultivate cannabis for the newly legalized recreational cannabis market.

According to the application, “a single micro-cultivation licence permits 200 square metres (around 2,152 square feet).”

One of the major stipulations of the development is that there would be no retail sales or consumption on-site. Health Canada does not allow cultivation licensee holders to combine operations.

There will be two phases of development, with the first phase including up to 15 employees in the initial 1.5-storey facility, estimated at $6 million.

The second phase — expected to occur several years after the first is complete — is for two storeys (estimated at $10 million) and a second part which is three storeys (estimated $15 million).

The proposal noted that up to 50 employees would be anticipated in second part of the second phase.

The property is vacant and was previously a fuel cardlock site.

Rezone in alignment

According to a city staff report, approval of the rezoning application works based on three points:

  • The use aligns with the intent of current zoning.

The waterfront mixed-use industrial and commercial zone permits uses such as warehousing, indoor manufacturing, light industrial (including brewery) and cannabis retail.

“The proposed facility is similar to many of these in terms of traffic demand, architecture, use, and neighbourhood impact and fit,” noted the report. “As the site is not permitted by Health Canada to be open to the public for retail or on-site consumption, traffic associated with the site would primarily be employees, and Railtown is designated by all planning documents as an employment hub with direct highway access.”

  • Other cities allow indoor micro-cultivation facilities such as the proposed one in light-industrial zones.
  • City staff research on nuisance odour has concluded no greater risk, and possibly less, than other uses that are already permitted, such as industrial and brewery.
  • “Although there is abundant negative press across Canada on the odours of outdoor and greenhouse cannabis production, staff have not found evidence of any issues with indoor cultivation facilities in Canada or the United States,” noted the report.

The proposed zoning would allow for indoor cultivation only and the applicants have proposed an industry-standard carbon filtration system.

— Source: City of Nelson

Going public with it

The Collective held a public open house on Sept. 18 with approximately 60 people in attendance with four area business owners and managers expressing opposition, with a few other attendees concerned about odour.

However, most did not express a concern about the development or the odour.

The application was presented to the city’s Advisory Planning Committee (APC) at its October meeting, with the commission recommending council approve the rezoning.

To-date the city has not received any questions or feedback directly from the public.

As well, Nelson Police and Nelson Hydro have not expressed any concern over the development, nor did the Ministry of Transportation.

“No objections were received, although Public Works indicated that they will install a water meter in order to monitor the facility’s water usage,” read the city staff report.

— Source: City of Nelson