Pubdate: Thu, 01 May 2014
Source: Almaguin News (CN ON)
Copyright: Almaguin News 2014
Page: 16
Author: Roland Cilliers


MAGNETAWAN - Property owners spoke out against the medical marijuana 
facility on Horn Lake last week but it didn't appear to change 
council's position.

Jim Dyment, Magnetawan's planning consultant, spoke at a special 
meeting on April 23 explaining zoning bylaws and whether Magnetawan 
has authority over the grow operation.

"Once we write a bylaw to say what's permitted, it's absolutely 
permitted," Dyment said. "Zoning bylaws are written in black and 
white. So if it says you can do something, you can do it. The council 
can't do anything about  it."

More than 50 seasonal and permanent residents attended the meeting, 
discussing the proposed medical marijuana grow operation by Craig 
Ferchat, president of Harena Maris Health Products Inc.

The Horn Lake Property Owners Association presented a letter from 
lawyer Ian Rowe of Barriston Law in Barrie.

Marilyn Pollitt, secretary-treasurer of the Horn Lake association, 
read the letter.

"It is my advice to my client and my submission to Council that it 
would be premature to permit the establishment of the Grow Operation 
until the Township has had an opportunity to review the potential 
impacts of Grow Operations and establish appropriate provisions for 
location and performance standards for such Grow Operations," the letter began.

"The Association is not against Medical Marijuana or the ambitions of 
Mr. Ferchat to expand his business into Medical Marijuana Production, 
however the Association is currently opposed to the location of this 
product near Horn Lake."

The concerns outlined in the letter focus largely on the 
environmental landscape of Horn Lake, including the concern waste 
water from the operation filtering into the lake, the risk of fire 
(which Rowe writes is above normal), and odours from producing and 
drying the product.

Other qualms from the property owners include inconclusive evidence 
of economic benefits, the criminal element an operation like this may 
attract, and possible reduction of property values.

"The facility could be located anywhere and the proposed operator is 
simply taking advantage of provisions in the bylaw to promote farming 
which were never intended to permit the establishment of a Grow 
Operation," reads the letter.

"These impacts need to be studied to determine how compatible the 
Grow Operation in this location would be with sensitive surrounding 
land uses and generally in the community."

But Ferchat's application is already underway to Health Canada. He 
spoke at the meeting, giving an update on its status.

"The only steps we have left are criminal record checks for our three 
key personnel and final inspection of the building," he said. "A lot 
has happened [since the last meeting] but I want you to understand 
there's a lot of things that can't be changed at this point."

The property in question on Horn Lake is zoned as rural for the 
permitted use of agriculture, which Dyment says in his opinion 
includes marijuana crops.

"The reality is if the applicant came to the municipality for a 
building permit to allow him to grow cucumbers, or flowers, or 
mushrooms, or even Boston lettuce - all of which I've ever seen is 
grown hydroponically these days - we wouldn't be in here," Dyment 
said. "The fact that marijuana is a drug is in my view independent 
from what is in the zoning bylaw."

"I would just like to say that I suspect the cucumber, carrot and 
lettuce farming did not require a security fence, nor did it require 
permission for overnight surveillance, nor did it require 
notification to the OPP," said one Horn Lake resident.

"While I appreciate the arguments that are made that this is not an 
agricultural use, I think there are an equal number of arguments that 
can be made that this is an agricultural use," Dyment said. "And I 
think what people do struggle with is the plot."

The recommendation from Rowe for council to intervene in this process 
is to enact an interim control bylaw.

However, Dyment says that while he isn't a lawyer, his opinion is 
that it likely wouldn't resolve the issue. He said at the meeting 
that while council could pass an interim control bylaw, it could then 
be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, where the municipality 
would have to defend its decision.

Often, Dyment said, one of the issues is whether an interim control 
bylaw is prejudicial (meaning aimed at one property), and if the 
municipality used extraordinary measures to freeze land use.

Magnetawan Mayor Sam Dunnett added that it's a fine line to walk when 
the medical marijuana facility's application is already underway.

Resident questions and comments came for more than an hour from 
residents, directed to Dyment and Ferchat.

Ferchat addressed some of the concerns regarding water waste disposal 
and zoning.

"In terms of water quality and some of the other issues that have 
been raised, there are things that we can and we are willing to look 
at to ensure that our waste water meets not just the minimum 
standards, but our standards," said Ferchat. "We live on the lake. We 
have a healthy plot of property on the lake. I want my kids and my 
grandkids to swim in that lake."

"We are not allowed to process our product," Ferchat said. "We're 
prohibited by law for processing our product. ... It's very much if 
you pick an apple off a tree, put it in a basket and sell it. That's 
all I'm allowed to do. If I do anything different, they're going to 
shut me down. There's no processing, we're not even allowed to do 
testing on site. We have to send it out.

"To say it's farming, I appreciate you don't like the crop at all, 
but that's what we do."

"Mr. Ferchat, yourself, personally, how do you feel going ahead with 
this project when so many of your neighbors are here speaking against 
it?" asked one resident.

"Frankly, I don't have a problem going ahead with the project," 
Ferchat responded. "What we have to get away from is the feeling that 
this is Cheech and Chong recreational marijuana. This is not. There 
are tens of thousands of people using this product on a medical 
basis. The alternative is not marijuana or no marijuana. The choices 
are legal marijuana or illegal marijuana. Those are your two choices."

Another issue raised was transparency.

"It's a private business and we run it as such," said Ferchat. "To be 
honest with you, we've been particularly transparent coming and 
answering questions, much more so than really we're required to. We 
try to be open with everything. We've answered every email that's 
come to us. And I think we've provided a lot of information. At the 
last meeting we described in great detail the processes and what we do."

Ferchat added that he's tried to get in contact with the Horn Lake 
property owners specifically.

"There was an announcement posted on the Horn Lake website saying 
that an ad hoc committee was going to be put together to discuss our 
proposal and we volunteered to be part of that committee and our 
email wasn't returned," he said. "So if the intention was to get 
information from us, we volunteered to be there and participate."

Dunnett closed the Horn Lake portion of the meeting after an hour and 
a half of discussion.

"I think council has been very fair. This is the third meeting we've 
had over this proposal on Horn Lake," he said. "I could see if we had 
the authority, if the jurisdiction was here, then we would have more 
than three meetings, you can be assured of that, but we're not. And 
we are in compliance. We're as curious on some of this stuff as you 
are, but we don't have the authority to change it."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom