The Regional District representative for Area G, which includes Topley, is Director Rob Newell.
Newell will give a recommendation to the RDBN board as part of the rezoning process, which is required for the proposed medical marijuana plant to proceed.
Newell presented his opinion of the proposal to a crowd of over 100 people gathered at a Topley community meeting March 19.
“It is without doubt a controversial subject and I’ve received strong opinions from both proponents and opponents of the proposed facility,” Newell said.
“As the electoral Director for the area, I have the responsibility to evaluate the social, economic, and environmental impact of this project. This evaluation, along with the position taken by the residents of this area, will constitute the basis for my recommendation.”
Speaking to over 100 people who attended the Topley Community Meeting, Newell summarized the key points he found around the issue of the medical marijuana facility.
The school itself is central in the debate and he and members of the Topley community spent a great deal of time looking at how the school could be used, Newell said.
Rick Pooley, School District 91 Assistant Superintendent, said that from time to time they received ideas about how the school could used, but none of the ideas had financial backing.
He says the empty school is costing over $20,000 in heating every year by taxpayers.
“[The empty school] is a burden to the school district,” Newell said.
“At some point in the future, if it’s not used, it could be slated for demolition, and for this school to disappear would be a huge loss to this community,” Newell said.
Newell said security is also a big concern.
He told the crowd that he toured the facility that Roberts currently runs in his home in Topley, and found the security system there very effective.
Regarding the economic impact and jobs, Newell was skeptical.
“Eighty jobs, I don’t know, perhaps. I would assume many of those are tertiary.”
He added that if medical marijuana becomes a mainstream industry and is dominated by corporations like most industry, it will probably lose much of its financial benefit to smaller operations.
Newell said the environmental aspect has several issues to be addressed, from the deterioration of the building structure, to moisture, mould, odour and ground water.
He added that there are ways to counteract those problems, and some are already used at the current facility run by Roberts.
The only jurisdiction that the Regional District has is with the building code, which they would apply if necessary, Newell said.
Newell closed with a reminder that like any business, the proposed plant needs a social licence.
“Without a social licence, without local support, any company would exude poor judgement to proceed,” Newell said.