Regional district agricultural land will not be turned over to large-scale indoor cannabis facilities after land use bylaw amendments were passed recently.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors has passed amendments on zoning and land use bylaws to address cannabis production across the RDCK, and the end result directs larger scale indoor cannabis facilities to lands zoned industrial, “while still enabling use of agricultural land for mixed soil and non-soil based cultivation and nurseries.”
Standard cannabis cultivation and processing endeavours are considered industrial in nature, read a staff report to the board at its mid-January meeting.
However, cannabis is also deemed a farm product when grown outdoors and the agricultural community has expressed a notion that cannabis and hemp production may provide another avenue for farmers to supplement their income, or expand the use of marginal agricultural lands, the report explained.
“It is clear that agricultural use of available arable lands varies significantly across the RDCK,” the report read. “Indoor cannabis facilities can have an unintended consequence of taking arable land out of food production.”
It was felt that encouraging “micro-cultivation,” processing and nurseries on larger residential parcels would help protect agriculture by putting the non-soil-based industry to land not well suited for food production.
The environmental considerations of the cannabis industry are not fully understood, the staff report explained, but research in the U.S. has shown the industry uses above average energy and water to operate.
“The cannabis industry is thought to be a significant contributor to the local economy and there is significant interest by potential license holders throughout the RDCK,” read the staff report.
The report speculated that the industry has the potential to create opportunities in “cultivation, marketing, analytical testing, distribution systems, seedling and nursery production, value-added processing and business development.”
The RDCK board first considered land use amendments for the implementation of the Cannabis Act on June 21 and held meetings with the public, industry and other stakeholders throughout the summer and fall of 2018. The proposed amendments were brought to a public hearing on Dec. 6.
The results of the Dec. 6 public hearing uncovered “general opposition to enabling cannabis in residential areas” where — due to smaller lot sizes — there isn’t as much room between properties.
There was some concern over changes to the allowable height and size of accessory buildings, as well as location in relation to neighbours and impact on the existing water sources.
Consideration should also be given, many people thought, to energy consumption and the “need to balance with the potential economic benefit of the industry to the region.”
Since business licensing falls outside of the authority of the regional district, the focus of the board of directors has been on land usage, as well as building code requirements and ensuring Health Canada application requirements were met.
Local governments had been given the responsibility of regulating land usage and business licensing as it pertains to cannabis retail sales, cultivation, processing and nurseries. Late last year amendments addressing cannabis retail sales were adopted.
Kootenay Lake conservation receives a boost
A number of 2019 environmental projects — as recommended by the technical review committee under the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund (KLLCF) — received board approval for funding.
Nine projects will receive a total of $176,295.34 “to support Kootenay Lake area conservation efforts to ensure broader goals of protecting the watershed and water quality for future generations.”
The 2019 funded projects are:
- Next Creek (property acquisition), Nature Conservancy of Canada — $93,000
- Grizzly Bear coexistence solutions, Friends of the Lardeau River — $12,000
- Fish/Bear Lake western toad ecology and Highway 31A mortality mitigation study, Valhalla Wilderness Society — $8,000
- Wildflowers for pollinators: A citizen-science meadow-scaping initiative, Kootenay Native Plant Society — $11,696
- North Kootenay Lake water monitoring project, Kootenay Centre for Forestry Alternatives — $20,000
- Kootenay Lake Kokanee salmon spawning habitat research and restoration project, Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society — $10,000
- Evaluating bat boxes as a mitigation for white-nose syndrome, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada — $10,000
- Crawford Creek Regional Park mapping, East Shore Freshwater Habitat Society — $5,850
- Western painted turtle conservation, BC Conservation Foundation — $5,749.34