CRD missing an economic opportunity

Interlakes Economic Association: CRD zoning bylaw restrictive

Interlakes Economic Association (IEA) members attended the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) public hearing regarding the amendments to the South Cariboo Zoning Bylaw at the Lone Butte Community Hall on April 23.

The IEA supports the provincial government’s new Bill 24 and the proposed Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR) designation of Zone 2 for our area, says IEA president Dianne Lawson.

“Our local ranchers and farmers need this new Zone 2 opportunity, which will permit other business opportunities on ALR zoned lands if they choose to pursue it. Now, the CRD wants to introduce an amendment, which will restrict commercial medical marijuana facilities to Heavy Industrial (HI) zoned properties only.

“This action basically flies in the face of what the provincial government is trying to accomplish with the new Zone 2 proposal.”

Noting the medical marijuana-growing industry is entirely driven by Health Canada, Lawson says it’s not neighbourhood grow operations, as it was pointed out after the CRD read comments from its advisory committees.

Although CRD chair Al Richmond recently claimed the CRD supports Bill 24, she adds the first opportunity to demonstrate this will be squashed if the proposed bylaw restricts Health Canada-regulated marijuana facility production to HI zones only.

“At the public meeting, we questioned Area L Director Bruce Rattray why the CRD would want to further restrict this when the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has already clearly stated Health Canada’s commercial growing facilities for medical marijuana are considered farm use. His comments were the board wants to control and restrict where these business operations are, and the CRD has precedence over the ALC through its bylaws.”

Lawson says the IEA has now referred this response to the agriculture minister through Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, as this could potentially be one step forward by one level of government (provincial) that is quickly reversed and controlled by the local government.

During the meeting, she adds the IEA directors suggested the CRD staff and directors consider how the Thompson-Nicola Regional District is handling this economic development opportunity. The TNRD

allows medical marijuana production facilities in certain zones or within the ALR subject to the following conditions: the facilities must be licensed by Health Canada; the use must be located on a parcel having a minimum area of eight hectares except on land zoned I-2 or I-3 where the minimum parcel area shall be four ha; and all buildings shall be set back a minimum of 50 metres from all parcel lines.

The IEA suggested there are many steps the CRD could take to reduce potential conflict with neighbouring properties instead of the direction it’s taking with its zoning restrictions, Lawson says, adding there are only four parcels of HI zoned land in Area L and only one parcel is vacant.

“So any investor interest would be referred to the rezoning process. Any potential economic development opportunity from this new industry would be lost to another regional district, which is already open for business…. Regrettably, the new tax revenues would not be realized in the CRD.”