Farm designation for grow ops worries council

Industrial medical grow ops could be classified under farm designation, which would limit what a municipality could collect in taxes

Industrial medical marijuana grow operations could be classified under farm designation in municipalities, which would severely limit the amount a municipality could collect in taxes on the property. That had city council concerned earlier this week.

“Because it’s an agricultural product, it may be classified as an agricultural zone rather than industrial zone,” Mayor Wayne Stetski said at the May 26 meeting, after council looked over a letter from Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sports and Cultural Development.

Oakes’ letter said that the province is working closely with stakeholder groups to address concerns, such as enforcement of local zoning bylaws to regulate commercial land use, as well as economic and security impacts, relating to the new federal guidelines on the production facilities.

Charlotte Osborne, Director of Finance and Computer Services, said that an industrial marijuana operation would just have to proceed with an application to be designated a farm.

“Should they be successful in that farm designation, it limits the assessment value on the land,” she said.

Osborne said that typically land is assessed at market value. However, under the legislation that would affect the property under the Farm Act, land would be assessed at $784 per acre as opposed to $150,000 per acre. She said the warehouse would be assessed at the regular rate, but would be subject to an 87 per cent exemption.

“You would only be taxed on the remaining 13 per cent,” she said.

Stetski said that explains the worries that municipalities across B.C. are having at the moment.

“If it gets a farm assessment rate, why would we even want to have a factory producing marijuana here?” Coun. Gerry Warner wondered.

At the May 12 council meeting, the city received a letter from Pitt Meadows, which passed a bylaw prohibiting the industrial marijuana grow operations in the city limits.

Warner said if things keep on the same track he would be in favour of a similar motion for Cranbrook.

Coun. Angus Davis took another approach.

“On the other hand, if you have a big facility here that employs a bunch of people, that means people will be working, buying houses, sending their kids to school here,” Davis said. “There’s all sorts of money that will be generated.”

Coun. Diana J. Scott agreed.

“It’s better than having a building that’s empty with no tenants,” she said.