Council supports kombucha facility start-up
By Erin Knutson
Fernie’s small business community showed up at Tuesday’s (Nov. 12) City of Fernie council meeting with letters supporting one of its up and coming members, Fernie Alpine Springs Ltd. (FAS), a locally based kombucha brewing operation that’s already making its mark.
FAS owners Simon Lefrancois and Ami Lee requested approval from council for the Temporary Use Permit TUP‐003 Manufacturing Food Industry in CS‐1 zone at Unit C 1501-10th Avenue to expand their business.
“We operate from a home-base to create a kombucha beverage with no smells or by-products. It will allow us to produce bottles instead of kegs, expand the market, and reach a bigger audience,” said Lefrancois.
Letters of support poured in from small business owners encouraging the City of Fernie to approve the permit for the expansion of the kombucha facility.
“I do not foresee this business adding any unbearable smells or activity to the area. I applaud the fact that Simon Lefrancois and Ami Lee are moving and expanding their business,” said Michele Kremer, owner of Fernie Wood Finishing, in a letter to council.
Kremer pointed out in her letter that the application was for a mixed light industrial zone that includes construction, trucking, sales, service, and maintenance businesses, some of which emit diesel fumes.
Recommendations on behalf of FAS’s peers, community and neighbours in favour of the start-up outnumbered concerns of negative impact on the area.
Some neighbours demonstrated concern about the issue of smells produced by the kombucha facility in disapproving letters to council.
“I am sending this to voice our concerns of odours that may emit with the food manufacturing done at Unit C 1501 10th Avenue. We would not be in favour if there is an offensive smell,” said neighbours Bill and Kathy Pachara in a letter to council.
Currently, the kombucha business claims that it has had no complaints to its existing operation, and that impact in terms of odour, is not a problem.
Duncan Maisels’ company, 0952472 BC Ltd. owns the property at 1501-10th Avenue in Fernie, and he was supportive of his proposed tenants after doing some investigative research.
Following a thorough examination of FAS and comparable facilities in Whitefish and Kalispell, Montana, Maisels was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness, professionalism, and odour proof operations he found involving kombucha brewing and production.
According to Maisels, FAS operates as a model business. He compared their set-up to a medical laboratory in terms of protocol and cleanliness.
He also praised nearby kombucha operations in Whitefish.
“A kombucha facility operated in a Whitefish mall for two and a half years with no complaints from neighbours. I have also spoken with the neighbours at Simon’s house, and they have no awareness of noise or smell. I’m excited to help another Fernie start-up to get going and to have success,” said Maisels.
The two-year term outlined in the permit will help the City of Fernie to determine if the operation fits well into its current zoning model. Green-lighting this permit could potentially make way for an amendment to the existing CS-1 zone, permitting similar facilities to set up shop down the road. See Background.
Council motioned in favour of the permit.