What has long been the calling card of the region’s underground economy is now looking for above-board validation in the budding of a new industry for Nelson.
Kootenay cannabis is the product ready to begin cultivation in the Heritage city as the Nelson Cannabis Collective has applied for an indoor cannabis operation use at 45 Government Road on the edge of the city.
The purpose of the application is to build an indoor cannabis cultivation facility, licensed by Health Canada to supply the legal cannabis market. City council passed first and second reading on the application Monday night in its regular council meeting and now sends the matter forward to a public hearing (no date set).
Coun Jesse Woodward was supportive of the project, seeing it exhibit a good element of local people wanting to do a good thing for the city.
“I think it’s probably a window into what small production facilities are going to be like,” he said. “I’m in favour of it but we have to be cognizant of how it affects the neighbours, but I feel like it could be a good plan.”
Which could mean producing a good quality product locally and then selling that product to local dispensaries, he said.
“There are many hurdles to get over, but, generally, in our area here we have an incredible amount of knowledge in this field, of course a lot of it has been underground for quite some time,” said Woodward.
Nelson doesn’t have industry of any sort, said Woodward, so to develop cannabis into a legal industry seems like a good fit for Nelson.
“We have to be inventive in how we do things, and the one thing we do have is this incredible cannabis knowledge,” he said.
The proposed project would introduce a new light-industrial use and additional vibrancy into Railtown, explained a city staff report to council.
“The tentative development plans are attractive and would be a significant improvement to the long-vacant site.”
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.”
Currently, no property in the city is zoned for cannabis 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