High Park Farms is expanding even before sales of recreational marijuana start.
And it will mean more jobs, more traffic and possibly more unpleasant side effects for neighbours.
Enniskillen Council gave the subsidiary of Tilray approval Sept. 25 to add four acres of greenhouses to the existing 13-acre complex and put an 11,000 square foot expansion on a 40,000 square foot building the company constructed this summer to sort and store the cannabis before shipment to processing facilities.
The company will also build a new parking lot to help ease some of the congestion already at the Lasalle Road site and to help in the future. Right now, about 120 people work in the facility which is growing recreational marijuana for the Ontario market. It also grows cannabis for the medical market.
In the next year, the number of employees could climb as high as 180 people.
“It’s not as big of an expansion as they (High Park officials) suggested they were going to do,” says Mayor Kevin Marriott.
“They’re taking a more cautious approach due to a few things – partly because of the County (of Lambton) and site plan requirements and also part of it is to do with the neighbours.”
Township officials are fielding complaints from neighbours about the light and smell of the plant.
Trevor Brand’s mother lives across the street from the facility. He says the bright lights from the greenhouse are disturbing but more problematic is the smell coming from the fans which vent the greenhouse. “It smells like a skunk,” he says. “The odour is as big a problem as the light,” says Brand.
Marriott says High Park has been using an essential oil “bomb” near the greenhouse fans to reduce the smell of the marijuana but it only works for a short period of time. “The neighbours who live the closest say it is not enough.”
The ideal solution would be for the company to install a carbon-based filter to keep the stink from seeping outside. Marriott says it is something the company is investigating.
Brand has met with Tilray’s highest officials who laid out some of the company’s plans but “there was no concrete timeline.”
Renee Ethier lives down Lasalle Line on a property she and her husband purchased because it was treed and the family wanted to experience wildlife. She fears the light coming from the greenhouse could frighten the wildlife away.
“As soon as (High Park) turned the lights on… the spring peepers are gone. They’ve moved on. It is affecting the wildlife.”
Ethier says her son jokes about the plant being a “giant moth light” because he can see the bugs in the air when the lights are on. There are also birds swooping around to catch the bugs. “There are obvious signs that it is changing what is happening,” says Ethier adding it may be affecting the wildlife at the nearby Marthaville Wildlife Habitat.
Ethier has talked to the company and they plan to have full curtains, including on the roof, by the winter to stop the amount of light escaping.
Marriott adds the company is trying to reduce the impact of the strong lights by turning them on at 4 am and off again by 9 pm. “Myself, I think it is a pretty good time frame.”
The mayor adds when company officials came to council on Sept. 25, they promised they would “continue to improve on both of those issues.”
The expansion of the greenhouse is likely to start in 2019 according to Marriott.