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Aurora Cannabis facility near Cremona poised for expansion

Development of community advisory board a condition of future development permit
cannabis facility
Harry Harker and Asia Walker, both with Harry Harker, B&A Planning Group, speak with councillors during the Nov. 27 public hearing to re-designate land at the Aurora Cannabis facility. Dan Singleton/MVP Staff

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Mountain View County council has given final approval to a bylaw re-designating lands at the Aurora Cannabis facility northwest of Cremona. 

The move came following a public hearing during the Nov. 27 regularly scheduled council meeting. First reading of the bylaw took place on Oct. 23.

The purpose of the re-designation is to amend the existing direct control district bylaw No. 13/16 – Section 17.17 of the land use bylaw.

The property involved is located at NE 20-30-4-5 and plan 1210814, block 1, lot 2.

The amendment involves a number of changes, including re-designating 54 acres from agricultural 2 district to agricultural district, 43 acres from direct control district to agricultural district, 5.91 acres from direct control district to country residential district, one acre from agricultural district 2 to direct control district, and 1.5 acres from agricultural 2 district to country residential district.

The proposed expansion would include the addition of a new 23,000-square-foot third bay, about 8,000 square feet of mezzanine office, and about 10,000 square feet of separate, secured warehouse storage.

The purpose of Bylaw No. 18/19 reads: “Particular and site specific regulation of an existing 55,000-square-foot federal and/or provincially licensed cannabis production facility and its expansion, including expansion of the existing processing and office building, a warehouse storage building, enhanced water, surface water, wastewater and storm water management facilities, emergency response capabilities, road access and private driveway, parking and on-site servicing, and accessory buildings and uses.”

The proposal was circulated to landowners within a mile of the facility.

Speaking during the Nov. 27 public hearing, Harry Harker, with B&A Planning Group on behalf of the applicant, said the proposed changes are being made to allow for the construction of ancillary facilities for more space for staff, security, shipping and storage.

Aurora has made attempts to address concerns with traffic access, he said.

“By and large we’ve attempted to address community concerns,” he said.

Speaking during the Nov. 27 public hearing, Marty Hughes, a nearby landowner, said he is opposed to re-designation due to concerns about water use.

“We are concerned that the county is not considering the long-term effects of this facility on the surrounding landowners,” said Hughes.

Douglas Lindskog, who lives south of the Aurora facility, also spoke during the hearing, saying he is concerned with the impact on the water table.

“I’d really like to know how in the long term my water wells will not be dried out,” said Lindskog.

Three letters of objection have also been received by the county regarding the proposed changes, with the writers outlining concerns with traffic and visual impacts, water usage, lighting impact and vehicle access.

“This proposed re-designation will likely further intrude on the peaceful rural county beauty that was the reason that we chose to relocate and put our life savings into our property,” one letter reads.

Another letter writer states, in part, that, “We are concerned that the county is not considering the long-term effects of this facility on the surrounding landowners.”

In a letter responding to the letters of concern, the applicant said, in part, that, “the proposed expansion provides better work spaces for all staff, better change rooms and shipping areas. There is a minimal increase in product growing space. By adhering to the county guidelines for lighting and landscaping the visual impact of the expanded facility should be minimized.”

A letter from Alberta Environment and Parks regarding the proposed re-designation states that Water Act approval will be required for any proposed disturbances to wetlands from the proposed development and/or access road and for any changes or alterations in overland drainage or water courses.

A letter from Alberta Health Services regarding the proposed re-designation, states that consideration should be given to the “types and volume of chemicals, such as pesticides, solvents, cleaning products and fertilizers, that will be stored on-site for the purpose of cannabis growing and processing.”

Following the 90-minute public hearing, Coun. Harris said he is confident the conditions accompanying the re-designation will address public concerns.

“I see this as a win for the county,” said Harris.

At Harris’s suggestion, council added a condition that a community advisory board be formed.

The condition reads: “A community advisory board shall be established as a prior to issuance condition of the first development permit. The board shall be comprised of designated officers for Aurora Cannabis Inc. and interested members of the public. Priority shall be given to landowners within a one-mile radius of the quarter section.

“Advertisement in the local paper for public membership shall be required. Should members of the public not express interest to participate, the applicant shall provide proof of such, and the development permit condition may be considered satisfied without establishment of a community advisory board.”

Deputy Reeve Angela Aalbers said she supports the re-designation.

“I look forward to the success of Aurora and participation in the community,” said Aalbers.

Coun. Peggy Johnson said she did not support the re-designation because she had concerns with the water use resulting from the re-designation.

“I think that the concerns regarding adequate potable water for neighbouring properties are legitimate,” said Johnson. “I think we have an absolute responsibility to be sure that water exists.”

The facility is categorized as direct control district, meaning council would have to consider any future development permit application.

Reeve Bruce Beattie and Coun. Al Kemmere did not attend the Nov. 27 council meeting.

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