City eyes vacant greenhouse for cannabis facility

By GILLIAN SLADE on May 28, 2020.

This greenhouse on Seventh Street SW, which you pass on the road to the Gas City Campground, could become a cannabis production and distribution facility with the potential to employ 25 people.–NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE

An empty greenhouse on the road to the Gas City Campground could potentially be transformed into a cannabis production and distribution facility.

On Wednesday the municipal planning commission passed a motion for council to make a decision on amending a land-use bylaw to re-designate the location from “mixed use” to “direct control,” to facilitate the development application process.

The commission was told that the cannabis production and distribution facility could create up to 25 jobs and this aligns with city council’s desire to attract industry.

Brian Varga, councillor and chair of the commission, acknowledges the public may have questions about a cannabis production facility after Aurora Cannabis’ full potential did not materialize.

Even though the anticipated employment is limited they are still jobs, he said.

“Any job is a good job so if it pans out…”

Varga also notes the greenhouse and building is already in place and has been empty for a long time. The city is not incurring any costs other than time. The developer has to cover the costs.

The location, 1108 Seventh St. SW, is adjacent to Hoopla’s mini golf and AutoStar. The city says it will cause minimal impact to adjacent properties. It is also near The Ridge – a medical office building – two hotels and Rustic restaurant.

Darren Hirsch, councillor and member of the commission, says this land-use bylaw amendment is only the first stage in the process and many aspects will be addressed along the way including at the development permit stage.

It is in fairly close proximity to the airport. A municipal development plan that is expected to be adopted later this summer includes information about use of land near the airport.

Light and odour nuisance are mentioned, and mitigating measures would need to be put in place.

Varga is not sure how the public will respond to the proposed development.

“I don’t think anybody really knows what the fallout is, what happens after the business is operating,” said Varga, noting there are not many cannabis productions facilities that can be used as examples. Technology is also improving to address aspects such as odour, he said.

A traffic-impact assessment will likely be required. The intersection of Seventh Street and the Trans-Canada Highway is extremely busy. This will be discussed further at the development permit stage, the commission was told.

It is unlikely the facility would include a retail component and there was no estimate, at this early stage, of how much traffic the facility would likely attract.

A public hearing would also need to take place on the proposed amendment for use of that land.

Preliminary discussions of the implications have already identified the need for substantial electrical infrastructure upgrades to facilitate the proposed use. The city says these would have to take place at the developer’s expense.

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