Neighbour wants legal grow-op gone
Deb Sharkey had lived in her Brocklehurst duplex for about a dozen years when things began to go downhill.
On the other side of the duplex, her neighbours, also longtime residents, installed vents in their windows.
Soon, a noxious smell was floating through the neighbourhood several days each month — “the most strongest skunk you’ve ever imagined,” Sharkey said.
Sharkey, whose former partner was an RCMP officer, knew the signs and called Kamloops Mounties to have the grow-op next door investigated.
But, when RCMP reported back, she was told nothing criminal was happening.
Sharkey’s neighbours were growing medical marijuana with a licence from Health Canada.
A call to the city got the property inspected, but privacy laws kept her from learning what was found.
Sharkey went a step further and called the B.C. Safety Authority, which ordered her neighbours to upgrade their wiring.
The agency could do nothing about the smell and other concerns.
“It’s so bad,” said Sharkey.
“We’ve got this lovely back deck and we can’t even go out and enjoy it because the smell is so strong.”
Now, Sharkey is cheering on efforts by the city to get grow-ops like the one next to her out of residential areas.
In the new year, city council will hold a public hearing to determine whether to move forward with bylaw changes that would restrict medical marijuana grows to industrial areas.
The change would also require would-be growers to obtain a building permit, file a ventilation plan with city staff and meet several other environmental requirements.
Because grow-ops on industrial land would already be permitted under new city zoning, they would not require council oversight and approval.
Sharkey has been lobbying hard for the change and intends to speak in favour of it at the public hearing.
She said residential grows in multi-family units like hers don’t make sense, in part because it’s difficult to keep the grow a secret in such close quarters.
“You can’t miss it with the smell in the neighbourhood,” she said.
“So, people who are looking for drugs are going to be coming here, down the street, looking for the home, maybe randomly doing breakins to try and find it.”
Sharkey is also concerned mould possibly produced by the grow could be filtering into her connected property.
Geoff Shellard, a Coquitlam-based mould-remediation contractor who has worked on residential grow-ops, said Sharkey’s worries are well-founded.
“[Grow-ops] use a lot of water and you use a lot of heat. And, those things combined create a lot of mould. So. that’s the biggest issue.”
Shellard said it doesn’t take long for mould to take hold in an indoor grow-op and issues can arise before any plants are in place.
“The problem is, if you just brought everything in day one, you’re bringing in fertilizers and pesticides, so those are hazardous in and of themselves,” he said.
“If they’re bringing in a whole bunch of potting soil, you don’t even have to grow any plants for there to be an issue.”
Sharkey, whose husband is a paraplegic, said she has invested too much money improving her home’s accessibility to just pick up and move if the issue doesn’t resolve itself.
“We’ve got grants we don’t have to pay back as long as we don’t move,” she said.
“And, besides that, it’s so apparent they have a licensed grow-op.
“Who on earth is going to buy a place right next door?”