A large scale medical marijuana production facility in Okanagan Falls that could bring 220 full-time jobs is moving forward despite objections from the area’s director.
Tom Siddon, director for Area D (Kaleden/OK Falls) spent the majority of a discussion at Thursday’s Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board meeting, urging his fellow directors to allow time for public comment before making a decision.
The 17-acre facility will house greenhouses, production and an administrative building that is proposed for the former Weyerhauser mill site, which is currently zoned Heavy Industrial.
A development permit (DP) only considers form and character guidelines (facade) and groundwater protection requirements as per the Electoral Area D-2 Official Community Plan. At the beginning of April regional directors voted to allow cannabis production as permitted use in industrial areas.
“I’m not against this application but I’m against the lack of due process in regard (to it). We can say we have to do this legally,” he said. “We are not properly and fully consulting the community, which I intend to do in a public meeting before the next board meeting — a town hall meeting because I think it’s important that the community understands what’s being proposed here.”
After several rounds on the issue, with Siddon urging director’s give him time to consult with the public, RDOS chair Karla Kozakevich read from the B.C. Planning Law and Procedures where it states that under the Local Government Act there is no obligation to consult the public and by doing so could present grounds for a lawsuit.
“We need to follow process. If we go out to the (Area D) community on this one DP, which means we are working against this developer and their permit, when we don’t do that for anyone else, it gives false expectations to the community that their opinion can impact a DP. And, if we go out once we have to go out all the time and if we miss going out we are subject to a lawsuit on a future DP as well as we could be on this one,” she said.
Although there are no requirements to hold a public meeting for an application for an Industrial Development Permit, the proponent Sunniva Inc. did hold a meeting on April 23 where about 50 community members attended. On May 8, the Electoral Area D Advisory Planning Commission approved the development permit application.
Siddon also mentioned consultation with the Osoyoos Indian Band was lacking, mentioning several letters received from the band to the RDOS about the development. At one point Sunniva Inc. was looking to build on OIB property.
Kozakevich said there is a meeting scheduled in the next two weeks to discuss the issue along with others. The Penticton Indian Band was not consulted on this specific development permit application, but was previously consulted during the Official Community Plan process for D-2, which sets the parameters for development permits.
Siddon attempted to have the issue deferred until the June meeting to allow him time to hold a town hall on that issue as well as flooding in his area. The motion failed with only Siddon, George Bush, Area B, director and Elef Christensen, Area G, director voting in favour.
The motion to not issue the development permit was then brought forward and failed with only Siddon, Bush and Christensen voting in favour.
The motion was then brought forward to issue the DP, which passed with only Siddon, Bush and Christensen voting against.
The proponent has two years to go ahead before the DP expires.
An earlier version of this story stated the Penticton Indian Band was consulted on the development permit application of Sunniva Inc. That information was not correct. No outside agencies need to be consulted for that application.
The Penticton Indian Band was consulted during the D-2 Official Community Plan process.