Public hearing on N.B. land rezoning stirs heated debated over proposed cannabis grow-op

Click to play video: 'Couple in Upper Coverdale trying to build micro cannabis cultivation facility facing opposition'
Couple in Upper Coverdale trying to build micro cannabis cultivation facility facing opposition
WATCH: A couple in Upper Coverdale trying to build a micro cannabis cultivation facility faced plenty of opposition at a public hearing in Moncton. Callum Smith reports. – Jan 9, 2020

A public hearing about the rezoning of land for a proposed micro cannabis production facility outside Moncton stirred up heated debate on Wednesday evening.

The hearing, held by the Southeast Regional Service Commission, was intended to give the public a chance to voice opinions and ask questions about the proposal in Upper Coverdale, N.B.

Two applications were discussed at the hearing, including one for the Greater Moncton Planning Area Rural Plan Regulation. That application involves an amendment to put cannabis production on industrial-zoned land as opposed to agricultural land, which was the case prior to legalization and a provincial directive.

Gina Brown, her partner Jared Murphy and their son standing in front of the land where they hope to build a micro cannabis production facility. Callum Smith / Global News

The second application was made by Gina Brown and her partner Jared Murphy to have part of their property rezoned as industrial land. The site, where Brown and her partner live, is located on Route 112, about two minutes from the Riverview town line.

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Apart from Brown and Murphy, most of the attendees at Wednesday’s hearing were there to voice concerns over issues such as water supply, odour, property values, future rezoning and more.

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“There was a moment where it was very hot in there, very heated,” Brown said.

Although the discussion was meant to focus on the proposal to rezone the area as industrial land, many of the approximately 100 people remained focused on the impact of the proposed cannabis operation.

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Future of NB Cannabis stores questioned under private model

“All I can say is I hope that it doesn’t move forward,” said Fiona Doiron, who created a petition against the rezoning application.

“It will be very unfortunate for a lot of people, and it’s going to be very upsetting for a lot of people, and it’s unfortunate that one person’s gain is going to be a detriment to everybody else in the neighbourhood… It’s going to ruin the neighbourhood.”

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Fiona Doiron, one of many residents who voiced concerns against the proposal, says the neighbourhood will be ruined if the application is granted. Callum Smith / Global News

The local service commission has made a preliminary recommendation for the province’s environment and local government minister to accept the proposal with conditions, however that will be considered along with public feedback, according to Joshua Adams, a planner with the Southeast Regional Service Commission.

The minister can either accept the proposal, accept it with conditions or deny the application.

And it’s not a done deal by any stretch, according to Adams.

“We’ve done what we can here, everybody just needs to kind of follow the process,” said Adams, who chaired the meeting. “There’s a reason why the process exists, is that (Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr) will consider all these comments, so he will weigh those comments in making a final decision.”

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Many questions pertained to the cannabis-growing operation and the proposed building that would house the cannabis operation, which Brown said will be 20 feet tall and about 4,200 square feet in area.

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“We have a whole list of concerns,” Doiron said. “Environmental (concerns), our wells, our property taxes, our quality of life, can I work in my garden, can I hang my clothes out, is the smell going to be too pungent?”

Doiron says it’s a sensitive subject and that a lot of people might feel like the decision to allow such a facility could be made without public knowledge.

“I think a lot of people in the room (were) upset because they found out through me,” she said.

Joshua Adams, a planner with the Southeast Regional Service Commission, says he’s making a preliminary recommendation that Minister Jeff Carr accept the proposal but that the decision also be balanced with public feedback. Callum Smith / Global News

There were two ads posted in the local newspaper, Adams said, and a post on the commission’s website, following protocol.

Notices were also sent to people within 100 metres of the proposed changes, but since it’s a rural area, only a few people seem to have received the notice.

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“They really viewed me as the enemy,” said Brown, who acknowledged many questions were unanswered at Wednesday’s hearing, in part because some were more about Health Canada’s regulations than rezoning. She said she understands there are concerns.

“I’ll educate as best as I can and I’ll keep doing it, and if they have questions that they want answered, I will answer them over and over and over again,” Brown said. “I know the leading edge is the bleeding edge, so I know I set myself up for this but I’m OK with it.”

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No decisions were made at the public hearing on Wednesday evening. There’s another hearing on Jan. 22, which is open to the public, although Wednesday’s event was the only opportunity for public questions or comments.

People who have concerns about the proposed changes have been asked to write to the minister of environment and local government.

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Carr will have until June to make a decision, Adams said.

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