Eganville – The future of a cannabis production facility at the old Foymount air force base is still in question but Bonnechere Valley council has promised to have an answer on the proposed zoning amendment by the end of the month following a town hall meeting.
“Every day we are not moving forward up there, be it construction, business, it is costing money,” said Patrick Delaney of Delcan, the company behind the planned cannabis production facility at the former Blackwater Factory. “We pay taxes up there and we’ve been getting pressured by some of our investors.”
He was speaking at a committee meeting of Bonnechere Valley council last Tuesday and the frustration he and his business associate, Mark Drouin, felt at not having a definitive answer from council about moving forward with their business was clearly visible during the ZOOM meeting.
“If we don’t have a decision after 14 days of today, we are going to contest this with the tribunal,” Mr. Delaney said.
Mr. Drouin said he had been led to believe an answer would have been given at the Tuesday meeting.
“We are sort of past the 90 days for the decision,” he said, adding they had responded to all of council’s previous questions about the operation of the facility and measures they would take to deal with community concerns.
At a previous public meeting in July council heard concerns from numerous of residents of Foymount about the proposed facility. They ranged from issues about water shortage, wastewater contamination, the general disrepair of the property, odour from the plant and the fact there is a park and playground next to the proposed site.
Delcan is proposing a medical marijuana production facility and has been working to achieve this at what has been an abandoned and some would say derelict building for almost two years. The company first broached the topic with council in September 2019 asking for rezoning. It took some time for the proper paperwork to be filed and the public meeting in July was part of this process. Their present goal is for council to pass an amendment to “rezone a 1.52-hectare property containing an existing 1,858 square metre building to permit a medical marijuana facility.”
The proposed use is “marijuana cultivation, processing, packaging and product distribution and is proposed to be operated entirely within the existing building.”
Council heard previously work was ongoing on the building, including the removal of the asbestos and the roof had already been done.
In July, council asked DelCan to meet with the concerned residents in a town hall meeting, but despite two proposals for an in-person meeting and a ZOOM meeting, nothing had occurred as of last week.
Mr. Drouin said they had responded to all the questions council had.
Councillor Brent Patrick, who was chairing the meeting, asked what happened to the town hall meeting request. Mr. Drouin said while there was a lot of back and forth with the township, he said the decision was to “absolutely not do any event on Delcan property because of liability reasons.
“That was absolutely off the table,” he said, adding a proposal for a meeting at the adjacent playground was also off the table. “We offered a ZOOM meeting and had no response.”
He later explained they were not willing to have the meeting at the park “that has issues with it already.”
He said instead they came to the meeting anticipating a decision would be made that day.
“We are past the 90 days for a decision to be made,” he said. “We would appreciate following that timeline.”
Mayor Jennifer Murphy was quick to disagree on some points.
“I respectfully disagree you received an email from Annette (CAO Annette Gilchrist) saying a decision would be made today,” she said.
Mr. Drouin replied he may have misrepresented it, but on reading the email to council it appeared to indicate council would be making some type of decision to either approve or deny the request. Ms. Gilchrist clarified the email had to be interpreted in context with the other chain of emails.
Mayor Murphy also disagreed DelCan had offered a ZOOM meeting, saying she never received that email. The mayor also questioned why it would have been impossible to have a public meeting in a park when 100 people are allowed outdoors at a gathering.
However, the mayor said she was impressed with the documentation sent from Delcan responding to concerns raised previously. Having the document distributed to Foymount residents would help alleviate their concerns, she added. There are many positives to consider with this proposal, she elaborated.
“This would be a boom for our area, however the people of Foymount deserve to have their questions and concerns answered,” she said.
Mr. Delaney said he would personally make copies of the document which Delcan had prepared answering questions and deliver them to residents of Foymount. He promised each household would have a copy at their door.
“There is a very very tiny pocket of people who have agitated the situation,” he said.
Having the town hall meeting moderated by Mayor Murphy would be a good next step, but he added their lawyer would also be present because of the “mudslinging” which occurred at the last public meeting.
Council agreed to have a town hall meeting on August 24 at 6 p.m. It will be held on ZOOM and the link is available at the township website, as well as in the Leader. The following week, on August 31 at 1:30, council will hold a special meeting to decide on the zoning amendment for the property.
“What we have to take in consideration is the residents,” Councillor Tim Schison said.
Councillor Merv Buckwald cautioned it has not been a popular proposal. “You’ve won the technical war but you’ve lost the public relations war,” he said.
“This is not a war at all, “Mr. Delaney countered. “This is a positive for all involved.”
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader