Marijuana issue sparks debate at Comox public hearing
Speaking on behalf of the 888 (Komox) RCAF Wing, Comox resident Jack Shapka expressed his concerns at a public hearing April 23 about the potential of a medical marijuana production facility located near Military Row.
“There’s a lot of residential areas, especially with the PMQs (Permanent Married Quarters). Why would we pick an area like that?” he asked council in front of a crowd of about 25 people.
“I’m not against it, but it would make sense to put it out of that area and in a safe place. We’re not too happy about it.”
The public hearing considered the rezoning application RZ 13-6: Medical Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation.
The zoning amendment bylaw no. 1764 was presented to council Jan. 15 and was given first and second reading.
It proposes to permit medical marijuana only in the I2.1 aeronautical industrial and AG1.1 agriculture zones.
In his report to council, Municipal Planner Marvin Kamenz noted with new federal regulations that came into effect April 1, the government states it is the responsibility of the licensee to comply with municipal bylaws and of the municipality to conduct the relevant inspections for compliance with local bylaws. The intention of the new federal licensing regulations is to shift from small-scale individual production, often conducted in single-family homes, toward large-scale facilities within commercial-industrial setting, meeting strict security and quality control requirements, he stated.
“Therefore, it is prudent to have the regulations in place,” he said.
Kamenz added there would be no on-site sales, and the facility would have to be fully contained with security features in place.
Mayor Paul Ives noted he is not aware of any applications for a facility.
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Two other public hearings were held Wednesday — an Official Community Plan Amendment bylaw no. 1771 and zoning amendment bylaw no. 1772 (park dedication; old Brooklyn School site) and OCP amendment bylaw no. 1754 (DPA #10; amendment to add a new Great Blue Heron nesting site).
Ives explained there is no change for underlying zoning for bylaw no. 1771, just a zoning change for the riparian areas.
In Oct. 2013, School District 71 sold the old Brooklyn School site at 1475 Noel Ave; in the lead up to the transfer, the town collaborated with the district to obtain fee simple title to the environmentally sensitive areas on the south, east and west sides of the parcel.
The amendment changes the subject property from institutional to public open space.
Residents expressed their concern about future residential development, wanting to ensure the park remains a public space.
Ives reminded the public the main park area is owned by the school.
The second public hearing had residents concerned about large birds around the active Comox Valley Airport.
“Airplanes and birds simply don’t mix,” said George Novak. “We want to discourage the birds near the airport.”
“We’re not looking at changing the game plan as far as avionics go,” Ives explained.
“We’re simply updating the information in the OCP to be as accurate as we can. It has nothing to do with the operation of the airport.”
Couns. Barbara Price, Ken Grant, Maureen Swift, Hugh MacKinnon and Mayor Paul Ives were present for the public hearing. Grant made a motion to refer all three items to the May 7 council meeting for third readings.