File photo

Permit rescinded by Ponoka County for cannabis production facility

Apparently miscommunication on water led to decision by council

A development permit approved last month has now been rescinded.

Ponoka County council passed a motion at their May 14 meeting to repeal the decision to hand Micro Grow a development permit for a cannabis production facility on county owned lots located right along Highway 2A across from the Samson First Nation.

The unanimous reversal came following a notice sent to the county from Samson First Nation administrator Bonita Samson that indicated the band has not approved any water connection or agreement with the business or landowner and neither has it been approached to enter into an agreement to supply water.

The letter stated in part, “Despite the availability of water lines to the proposed cannabis production site, please be advised, unless and until there has been consultation with and agreement of chief and council on this issue, Samson Cree Nation is not legally obligated to supply water to the proposed micro cultivation/cannabis production operation.”

CAO Charlie Cutforth explained administration only learned around May 7 of the conflicting messages he described as issues happening “internally.”

This contradicts a letter supplied to the county from a Samson First Nation senior manager, discussed by council at its April 23 meeting, that Cutforth noted confirmed that the development had secured a water supply.

That document is what was used by council to determine whether to provide the development permit.

“The letter verified access to the water line and that consumption between two and three cubic metres per day was available,” he stated to council.

Cutforth added that the Samson First Nation, per the band administrator’s letter, is seeking legal advice on the matter.

“In light of the confusion, that water was the one piece that approval hinged on and based on the new information, I recommend that council rescind the development permit until such time as the water issue is resolved.”

Part of the discussion on revoking the permit focused on whose authority the county should look to when coming to a decision.

“Who are we supposed to listen to?” said Coun. Mark Matejka, who also questioned how the county can verify if the water issue has been truly resolved if a confirmation from a band official can’t be relied on.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin stated the approval motion was valid at the time and there isn’t much choice but to rescind the permit now that it’s confirmed there is no water supply.

“The reality is that we did the best we could with what mechanisms were available, but the fact it was rescinded by their council is too bad,” he said.

The situation and relationship with the Samson First Nation is unique in that the county owns some significant land parcels that are essentially part of the Maskwacis community.

“As a county, we have to be cognizant of the band and that it is also the largest taxpayer for the county owned land. And as the county has prepared for in the past, we try to follow what the band council wants. If the band owned all the land, then why not have it become theirs should they want?” Cutforth added.

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