BC: Marijuana Facility’s Townsite Location Sparks Debate

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Members of the business community are concerned a sanctioned medical-marijuana facility to be located in the historic Townsite area may toss a little tarnish on the neighbourhood’s charm.

Townsite Brewing general manager Chloe Smith said that she and others are worried that locating Santè Veritas Therapeutics’ medical-marijuana facility at the old Catalyst Paper Corporation administration building will degrade the neighbourhood’s attractiveness to tourists.

“We should be trying to attract businesses that will be showcasing all this old architecture and heritage,” said Smith. “I don’t know what they’re plans are, but I have certainly heard different things being mentioned: barbed-wire fencing and security details.”

City of Powell River announced in June that medical marijuana producer Santè Veritas had received notification from Health Canada that its application had reached the pre-inspection phase of the approval. With this the company will be able to start the planned renovations for the old Catalyst building.

The issue of the future renovations was brought up in a group email circulated between directors of Powell River Chamber of Commerce, local business owners, city councillors and staff and media.

City of Powell River senior planner Jason Gow said the planning department has yet to see any plans for the building, and though he too has heard rumours about fencing and security, he said there is nothing official to substantiate them.

The development would occur within a development permit zone and due to size of the project will require council’s approval before it goes ahead.

Santè Veritas operating officer Donovan Edwards said the company recognizes there are concerns in the community about what is being planned, but suggested that those fears are unwarranted.

“Of course we realize the juxtaposition of the Rodmay Hotel and Dwight Hall,” said Edwards. “Our intention with the city is to absolutely blend in seamlessly with Townsite.”

City councillor Karen Skadsheim said she is aware that Santè Veritas has been notified by the city, the owner of the building, that project renovations will be required to fit in the neighbourhood.

Skadsheim said she shares Smith’s concerns, but not just about the Catalyst building, but that there is not enough protection for Townsite heritage buildings and homes in general.

“I have concerns about every building in Townsite,” she said. “The good news here is that the landlord is the city and as the city we do have control about what they do. We have voiced these concerns.”

When the company applied to Health Canada for the licence to operate it sent detailed plans for the Catalyst building, plans that included provisions for internal security, though Edwards was not able to specify further, he said.

Smith added that if Santè Veritas plans to protect the heritage aspect of that building and maintain the heritage aspect of it, she supports the business being located there.

“If they are planning on changing the faÇade in such a way as to be detrimental to our national heritage neighbourhood, then I think it’s a shame and I would want to look at other locations,” she said.

According to Health Canada, the department may require an applicant to withdraw its application and resubmit it if the applicant wishes to change its proposed location. Edwards said he does not think it is even an option to ask Health Canada for an opinion.

“If we were even to broach the question with Health Canada, it would stall things,” said Edwards. “They have spent a lot of time looking over this and vetting us. Recognize that 1,800 applications were put in for this and we are one of the very few who are at this stage.”

Health Canada has granted only 35 licences for producers of legal medical marijuana in the country.

“I understand the [neighbourhood’s] concerns and we will be trying to work with them so that everyone’s happy,” he said. “We don’t want to be an eyesore.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Marijuana Facility’s Townsite Location Sparks Debate
Author: Chris Bolster
Contact: Powell River Peak
Photo Credit: Chris Bolster
Website: Powell River Peak