Opposition to medical cannibis production at old Blackwater Factory

·5 min read

Foymount – Residents in the small hamlet at the highest populated spot in Ontario are not pleased about a medical cannabis production facility proposal for the old Blackwater Factory building and the site of the old air force base.

At a special meeting held virtually, Bonnechere Township Valley council heard their objections loud and clear. They ranged from concerns 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.

The proponents for the medical marijuana production facility had been at BV council pre-COVID asking for rezoning and now the next official step has taken place with a special meeting on an amendment to “rezone a 1.52-hectare property containing an existing 1858 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.”

Patrick Delaney was identified as the owner. However, Mark Drouin, who is also involved with the company, DelCann, behind the operation, was the spokesperson for the ZOOM meeting addressing the concerns.

“It’s not a surprize to us being this is a new industry not that many people are familiar with it,” he said. “This is a new age of production.”

The production of medical marijuana is totally federally licenced and inspected, he stressed.

“We fully understand concerns about water usage,” he said. “It is our lifeblood in the agricultural community.”

They will recycle the water, he promised to be more efficient and there will also be no runoff of the water because it is going into a holding tank.

“The water is brought in by tanker,” he added. “We can’t use the well water because the ppms are too high.”

Mr. Drouin said the exterior would look attractive and be safe when the business was operational.

“We don’t necessarily like the appearance of the building ourselves,” he said. “In order to promote our brand, we need a nice building.”

He said work was ongoing on the building including the removal of the asbestos and the roof had already been done.

At an earlier meeting with DelCann council had been told the federal inspectors come in to inspect after the building is ready for production, so a lot of work is needed to be done.

“Our building has to be spic and span,” he said, adding there will be no mould which had been a concern identified by one of the letter writers.

Mr. Drouin said this would be good for the community, promising to focus locally on hiring.

“We are easy to work with,” he added. “We are professional.”

Letters of Objection

There were several letters of objection read at the meeting, as well as a few people who spoke against the proposal. The change to the zoning was not only advertised in the Leader, but neighbours within 120 metres were also notified.

Council received a petition against the proposal signed by 47 people.

“It appears to be the majority of the hamlet of Foymount,” Mayor Jennifer Murphy said.

Tracy Zander, a professional planner for Zander Plan of Perth, hired by the company, said the proposed use is permitted in the official plan and this is an underutilized building which has been vacant for some time. It would bring jobs to the community and clean up the property, she said. The building is zoned for commercial use.

“The use can be fully contained within the building that is there,” she said.

“This is not a store where customers would be coming to buy marijuana,” she added.

When council discussed what they had heard, Councillor Merv Buckwald expressed concerns about them being good neighbours. He said he did not want to be receiving more complaints in the future.

Mayor Murphy said she had several concerns, including why there is production happening right now as was reported in a letter to council.

“Why is someone living in the building?” she asked.

“I’m concerned about being a good corporate neighbour and keeping your yard clean,” she said.

The mayor asked if they would be willing to buy water from the Eganville water system as this would be a help to the system’s finances.

As well she asked if sprinklers would be installed.

“Are we putting our fire department at risk, our neighbours at risk?” she asked.

Councillor Jack Roesner, who pointed out he represents the Sebastopol Ward where Foymount is located, said he had some concerns.

“Have the building inspector and fire chief look in the building and see what is going on,” he said.

There was also a concern for him about the park and playground next door, he said.

Coun. Roesner said he wanted to see a town hall meeting.

“I’m definitely not in favour until there is a welcoming from the people who live there,” he said.

Mayor Murphy said the next step would be a town hall meeting with the area residents of Foymount. All members of council agreed.

Councillor Brent Patrick said he was looking for more information on the water and holding tanks.

“That would ease concerns,” he said.

As far as traffic, he said there has been traffic in the area before. “If it was able to support CFS (Canadian Forces Station) Foymount, it could support this,” he said.

Mayor Murphy said township staff would meet with the proponents and set up a town hall meeting.

“I see some positives with property upgrades and local employment and if they were willing to buy water from us that would be a help,” she said. “I see a lot of negatives if the questions can’t be answered effectively.” Coun. Buckwald said he would like to see some action now on cleaning up the property. However, Coun. Patrick cautioned if a developer is not sure they can use the property why would they put more money into it if there is no industry there.

“Merv (Coun. Buckwald) was talking more about mowing the lawn and making sure the windows are clean,” Mayor Murphy noted.

When the Black Water Factory was operating, employment was often above 100 people. In addition, the manufacturer of Sierra Designs recreational clothing and accessories drew thousands of people to the former base.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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