Neighbours of a proposed Glen Valley-area marijuana growing facility are worried about local impacts, even as the owner pledges odour and light won’t be issues.
Glen Valley Cannabis is one of the many new marijuana-industry operations looking to start up in the Fraser Valley. The company is currently applying for a permit to build a soil-floored greenhouse in Glen Valley, near the Blaauw Eco Forest.
A number of neighbours nearby are worried about light pollution, odours, and the amount of water used by the new facility, or the impact it might have on the water table.
The residents asked that their names not be used, but they have banded together as the Glen Valley Neighbourhood Coalition.
“We’re on wells here, everyone’s on a well,” one resident said.
They are concerned largely because of what happened in South Aldergrove after the Canopy Growth greenhouse started operation with thousands of plants in a multi-acre site originally designed for growing hothouse vegetables.
Residents in Aldergrove have complained for more than a year to the Township and other authorities about strong odours from the facility, located on Zero Avenue near 264th Street. Light has also been an issue.
The Glen Valley Neighbourhood Coalition members are worried the same thing could happen to their area.
“This municipality for some reason is reluctant to become active, to do something about it,” said one coalition member.
They’ve been appealing to multiple levels of government, from the Agricultural Land Commission to federal officials.
They worry about the impact on their homes, on local agritourism, as it’s near Aldor Acres Farm which hosts pumpkin patches and other community events, and even about the possibility of the pot odour reaching the Wagner Hills Farm Society, a rehabilitation home for men recovering from drug addictions.
The neighbours said they are worried it could trigger the recovering addicts.
The project is planning to conform to all regulations, and hasn’t yet had its building permit approved by Langley Township, said Glen Valley Cannabis CEO Paul de Thomas.
He emphasized that the operation will be small in comparison with the multi-acre Canopy Growth cannabis greenhouse in South Aldergrove.
“Much, much smaller,” said de Thomas. “We want to think of our self as a boutique grower.”
He was not happy with the impression Canopy has left on Langley residents of what having a marijuana farm for a neighbour could be like.
Glen Valley Cannabis currently has a small medical marijuana project in an old barn on the farm, and de Thomas said they are exceeding all the regulations set out for such a project.
Their larger growing operation will have to meet emissions regulations standards from Metro Vancouver and the Air Quality Management Bylaw, de Thomas said.
He promised light will be controlled.
“We’re using blackout blinds,” said de Thomas.
Automated curtains are to be installed to cover the walls and ceilings, keeping light from escaping and bouncing it back on the plants.
The odour control system uses active ventilation and charcoal filtration to keep odours from escaping, according to a letter sent to the Township’s building department from an engineer.
“We’re using products that we know work,” he said.
De Thomas said that the facility is expected to use 95,000 litres per day once the project is up and running.
That is a lot of water, but not extreme for a greenhouse – an average greenhouse uses 83,000 litres of water per acre per day.
“We have been assured that the aquifer will not be jeopardized,” he said.
Power will be through the BC Hydro grid, and will run through a three-phase grid, unlike the single-phase grid of nearby homes, said de Thomas.
In case of a power failure, an 820 kilowatt generator will be on site in case of power failures.
Glen Valley Cannabis is a family-based business and is self-funded, said de Thomas. He wants to reach out to the neighbours, and not be a faceless corporation in their midst, he said.
“We could be working together on this,” said de Thomas.
So far, he said he’s tried to reach out to some of the neighbours, but hasn’t heard much back, de Thomas said.
Several members of the Glen Valley Neighbourhood Coalition were at a recent public open house convened by Langley Township.
The event saw members of the RCMP and fire department, along with politicians representing local, provincial, and federal offices there to answer questions.
Queries about marijuana growing operations, including the Canopy site in South Aldergrove, came up multiple times.
Although local officials can regulate certain aspects of marijuana cultivation – municipalities have more control over greenhouses that build in concrete floors – most of the authority lies with the Agricultural Land Commission, the provincial Ministry of Agriculture, and the federal government, which sets the rules for cannabis operations.
Members of the coalition have been writing to federal authorities, including Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair, urging him to turn down the license application for the farm.
Langley East MLA Rich Coleman has also been active recently in concerns over marijuana farm impacts, asking for the federal government to intervene when farms emit too much odour and impact the neighbourhood. Coleman has pointed out that odours are supposed to be controlled from marijuana grow operations, or they can be shut down.