By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
A rezoning bylaw that would allow for the potential development of a cannabis facility in Lethbridge County has been defeated.
During their regular Nov. 7 meeting, Lethbridge County council held a public hearing for Bylaw 19-033, which would amend their Land Use Bylaw to rezone part of a property north of the Town of Coaldale from Rural Agriculture to Rural General Industrial.
Rezoning the east half of NE 26-9-20-W4 from Rural Agriculture to Rural General Industrial would allow for an 5.25 acre area on the east side of the parcel to be used for a proposed Cannabis Production facility. The parcel in question is located a mile east of Highway 854 and 1.5 miles north of Coaldale on Range Road 20-1, and the proposed facility would be a small cannabis cultivation and processing facility, that would allow for the growing, harvesting, processing, packaging and the distribution of cannabis to the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission.
First reading had been given to the bylaw during council’s regular Sept. 5 meeting.
During the public hearing, county council heard from a number of neighbouring landowners who stood in opposition to the rezoning, citing concerns with noise, odour, safety and potential health affects for children and those living in the area. Several letters had also been sent in to the county stating their opposition and concerns with the bylaw.
Attendees also disagreed with the notion that the facility was on unfarmable land, as the land had been farmed years ago.
“The question needing to be asked is whether you would want to live across the road from a cannabis plant, or a waste management facility, slaughterhouse, bulk fuel or fertilizer storage, salvage yard and so forth, as these are all possibilities if the land designation is change,” said Lindsey Leusink, a nearby resident to the property in question.
“Please, please consider the devastating impacts that changing the land designation would have on all homeowners in this are, the values of their property, and the effects it could have on everyone’s health and safety.”
A number of those opposed raised concerns over traffic safety, as they said there was a blind spot on the road where the facility would be located, due to a hill to the north of it.
Speaking in defence of the rezoning bylaw, Darrius Nikkel, one of the people who had made the rezoning application, said that it would be a small facility with about five people working there at a time.
Additionally, there were strict requirements from Health Canada they would need to follow regarding things such as odour and security — which include 24 hour surveillance — to ensure the safety of the facility.
“This is not going to be a big tax revenue for the county, we are not going to be employing 100 people, but this is supporting our families, possibly three other families that have lived in (Lethbridge County) our entire lives,” said Nikkel.
“At the root of this, this is farming, it is done inside in a controlled environment, but it is farming none the less.”
Administration had recommended that, given the application doesn’t meet the county’s industrial/commercial land use strategy for the location of an industrial use and doesn’t meet the majority of requirements in their Municipal Development Plan for the redesignation of a property for industrial or commercial use, council defeats the bylaw on second reading.
After the public hearing closed, coun. Tory Campbell noted that while agriculture was the backbone of the county, ag producers can’t bear the burden of the county alone, and while council was always looking to expand their tax base, it was a difficult balancing act.
“I think at the end of the day, I myself personally would like to remove the cannabis element from it for this discussions, and I had a professor in university, and he always talked about the widget factory, if you were building widgets, so I’m going to borrow that,” said Tory. “I see this as an application to change the designation, and I can’t support that.”
Coun. Steve Campbell said the issue wasn’t what it was, but more of where it was. Coun. Klass Vander Veen said that they had to take into account the concerns of their residents and some of the circumstances that will occur because of the development.
Council defeated a motion to pass second reading of Bylaw 19-033.