Kelowna takes first step to allow commercial pot growers to use agricultural land

City council originally said industrial land only would be used, by now will consider agricultural land on a case by case basis.

After first saying new federally-approved commercial medical marijuana production facilities in Kelowna would only be allowed on industrial land, city council has decided it agrees with the provincial Agricultural Land Commission and has given initial approval to an expansion of its bylaw to allow them on agricultural land.

But, it warns, any approval from the city under its new zoning rules for such facilities, will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Council voted to send an amendment to the new bylaw it approved last month allowing the facilities only on industrial land to a public hearing to find out what residents think.

A public hearing on the plan to limit the self-contained, indoor legal grow operations to industrial land attracted little public response in May.

When council debated the industrial-only rule prior to that, staff were asked about the ALC’s ruling saying medical marijuana production was considered an agricultural land use and it would support allowing it to occur on land in the Agricultural Land Reserve. At the time, staff said city zoning bylaws would protect it from being forced to allow the facilities on agricultural land here, despite the fact the ALC has the final say on what is allowed on ALR land.

But after it approved the commercial medical marijuana production bylaw, council appeared to have a change of heart and asked staff to report back on allowing some production on agricultural land.

On Monday, city planner Shelley Gambacourt told council the rules for considering a federally-approved commercial medical marijuana growing operation would include limiting the lot coverage to just 10 per cent of the site. There would, however, be the opportunity to seek a variance to that.

City Coun. Andre Blanleil said he liked the 10 per cent lot coverage rule and the fact a variance could be requested.

“It gives an opportunity for staff and council to sit down with the applicant and have a fresh look at (the proposal),” he said.

He added he considered the 10 per cent rule a “tool” the city could use in getting the best proposals possible.

Earlier this year, a change to federal rules went into effect that said only Health Canada-approved commercial applicants can get licences to produce medical marijuana in Canada. Prior to that, licences could be acquired by individuals growing in the own homes.

While the question of who gets a licence will be up to Ottawa, the municipal government can set its own rules for zoning.

But while it will have say over where the facilities are located here, Gambacourt said the city will not have any say over what the buildings look like.

That raised a level of concern for Coun. Gail Given, who said she was worried after seeing a picture of possible design that she looked like a concrete “bunker.”

Only a handful of licences to produce medical marijuana have been handed out so far by Heath Canada across the country and the city says to date, as far as it knows, none have been awarded here.







Kelowna Capital News