This is a rendering of what a cannabis production facility proposed for Red Deer County’s Blindman Industrial Park would look like. Image provided by Sevenz Consulting

Contentious cannabis production facility clears another planning hurdle

190,000-square-foot facility to be built in Blindman Industrial Park

A second effort by Red Deer County councillors to block a contentious cannabis production facility was narrowly defeated Tuesday.

The county’s municipal planning commission voted 6-1 in March to deny a proposal by Calgary-based developers to build a multi-building, 190,000-square-foot facility in Blindman Indutrial Park, just west of Red Deer.

The planning commission, which is comprised of members of council, argued the plant was too close to nearby homes and could prove a nuisance.

An appeal was launched by the developers, and the county’s subdivision and development appeal board overturned the planning commission’s decision earlier this month.

The project came before the planning commission again for approval of the subdivision of 10 acres from the 120-acre property, so the first phase of the cannabis facility could go ahead.

Coun. Christine Moore proposed a motion denying subdivision because of the proximity of homes. She said the developer could not assure her that there would be “zero odour” from the facility, which will include a number of sealed buildings equipped with filters and other technology to prevent odours escaping.

A number of residents in North Lane Estates are strongly opposed to the facility, complaining it will smell, drive down property values and make homes impossible to sell.

Mayor Jim Wood also opposed subdivision, saying he was not happy the developer was only subdividing a small portion of the site, instead of a chunk of land big enough for future phases.

Wood said it “bugs” him that the small subdivision could be an effort to pay higher taxes on as small a portion of the property as possible.

A motion to deny subdivision narrowly lost 4-3, with Moore, Wood and Connie Huelsman in favour.

Wood then proposed deferring a decision, so the county could get more information from the developer about future phases of the project. That motion fell along the same voting lines.

Coun. Richard Lorenz argued in favour of approval, saying the county had no grounds to deny subdivision for the project, which met all of the county’s requirements. Even if subdivision was denied, it would overturned on appeal, he said.

“This (project) is happening where our rules say it should happen,” he said, pointing out the facility would be built in an industrial park.

Planners recommended approval, saying the project met county regulations in the Land Use Bylaw and other plans, and “that it is suitable for the intended purposes and that it will not negatively impact adjacent land uses.”

County manager Curtis Herzberg said he understands some on council are unhappy with the appeal board’s decision.

“I get that,” he said.

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