More work from the applicant is needed before Regional District of North Okanagan directors will approve a proposed major cannabis production facility in rural Lumby.
Electoral Area Advisory Committee directors recommended to the board approving Ontario-based Green Amber Corporation’s application for a nearly 108,000 square foot facility on 20 acres on Shafer Road, off Highway 6, between Lumby and Cherryville, that would employ approximately 30 people.
Close to 40 protesters, some carrying signs that read “Farms Not Factories,” “Water Supply Insufficient” and “Protect ALR,” paraded outside the RDNO board office in Coldstream, then crammed into RDNO chambers to hear directors discuss the application with Green Amber president Jonathan Fernandes, who owns the property.
“There’s a lot of interest in this, lots of folks in the room, and I do want to engage a lot of folks,” said Fernandes, looking at the crowd. He explained he tried to hold a public meeting on his application on Nov. 25 but “only a handful of people showed up.”
The first question asked of Fernandes by Area B BX-Swan Lake director Bob Fleming was water for the facility.
Fernandes, who stated he was “a bit of an expert in hydrogeological information,” having worked formerly with Ontario’s Ministry of Environment where his main area of expertise was contaminate management, said he installed a shallow, unconfined water well when he first purchased the property, which was in June 2017.
A pump test from that well, after about 12 hours, said Fernandes, showed there was not enough water in that well and was declared unfeasible for Green Amber’s desired uses. The uses had neighbours pondering if there would be enough water for them.
“We did some more tests, drilled a deep-water well that accesses Aquifer 1004, a confined aquifer, and it ranges about 51 square kilometres,” said Fernandes. “The water is under the bedrock so there is a low vulnerability. There’s not a lot of danger of running out of water.”
Fernandes said the facility proposes to use 3.5 million litres of water per year.
“When we water plants, it’s very succinct,” he said. “It’s a drip system, very precise, based on what the plant needs. Nothing more than that.”
Fernandes also addressed directors’ questions on traffic, noise and parking in his nearly 50 minutes before the board, and also mentioned that the North Okanagan “is one of the best regions in the world to grow cannabis,” which raised eyebrows among directors and the gallery.
“That scares me,” said alternate Armstrong director, Mayor Chris Pieper. “The OCP (Official Community Plan) of every community here does not state that growing cannabis is our goal.”
As it was not a public hearing, the gallery had no chance to ask questions or make comments.
Before the directors was a recommendation to defer the EAAC recommendation, pending submission of a hydrologist report to determine if there would be any negative impact on the use of neighbouring wells. The recommendation also called for Fernandes to hold a public information meeting and demonstrate how his proposal will limit the impact the facility could have on surrounding neighbours.
Board chair Kevin Acton, Mayor of Lumby, thought that Fernandes had adequately answered all the questions and wanted to vote on the EAAC recommendation. But because the original recommendation had been moved and seconded, there could be no further debate on the issue.
RDNO directors passed the recommendation with directors Christine Fraser (Spallumcheen), Brian Schreiner (Enderby) and Acton opposed.
No date for the public meeting has been set.