Greenhouse neighbour gets standing at hearing for new cannabis rules

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An Enniskillen man who has been fighting to keep cannabis from being grown at a greenhouse just 28 meters from his home now has permission to be part of a hearing at the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Trevor Brand and his mother, Cathy, have been filing complaints about odour and light pollution since Tilray opened High Park Farms across the road from their Enniskillen home in 2018. The Brands and other neighbours complained about excessive light and odour coming from the facility.

The company put up light curtains and vapour cannons to reduce the problems, to no avail.

At one point, Brand filed a complaint with the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board hoping to have the company fix the problem. But before the hearing was held, Tilray closed its High Park Farms facility on Lasalle Line in August 2021.

There are no federal or provincial rules about how close cannabis production operations can be to homes.

Many Ontario municipalities have changed their own zoning rules to gain some control over the common issues of light and odour pollution.

Municipal Councillor Mary Lynne McCallum and Deputy Mayor Judy Krall pushed for changes to the Enniskillen’s official plan to deal with the issues the family faced.

In February 2021, the township placed an interim control bylaw stopping anyone from producing cannabis in the township until new rules were drafted.

Thirteen months later, in January, the township held a public zoning meeting to layout what was proposed – the zoning changes would limit the outdoor growth of cannabis 300 meters from homes.

It would limit the indoor growth of cannabis 80 meters from homes for standard production of cannabis – less for micro cultivation which would take just over 2,000 square foot of floor space.

It is 28 meters from Brand’s home to the lot line of the greenhouse on Lasalle Line.

The new rules would also require air quality, light, noise and traffic studies in a five kilometer area around the cultivation facility.

But Enniskillen Pepper – which owns the greenhouse and had a long-term lease with Tilray – objected when the proposed rules were introduced saying they would effectively stop production of cannabis at the facility.

“This approach does not repre- sent good planning as it fails to recognize existing operations like Enniskillen Pepper,” wrote the company’s lawyer Scott Snider in a letter announcing the appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal to county planning staff.

Snider said under the new rules, Enniskillen Pepper would have to go through “an onerous and costly
planning process to obtain studies and approvals for a use that is permitted today. Our client simply
wants to be able to continue its agricultural operation without having to obtain costly and unnecessary planning approvals and technical studies to continue an operation that was legal and for which considerable capital has already been invested to accommodate the use.”

Enniskillen politicians say they didn’t know at the time Enniskillen Pepper officials were already in talks with another commercial cannabis producer to rent the facility.

Monday, Snider was at the Ontario Land Tribunal for the first hearing about the issue. There were no legal arguments; but Brand, who supports the new zoning rules, was given the right to have standing at the hearing. That will allow his lawyer, Anthony Petrucci, to ask questions during the eventual hearing.

Enniskillen Pepper is also appealing a decision which stopped a site specific exemption to the rules.

County planning staff said even though the greenhouse had not been used since August 2021 to produce cannabis, it should be given an exemption to allow the crop to continue to be grown

Brand’s lawyer disputed that in a letter written in February. “Since Aug 2019 to the current date, no cannabis cultivation, production, or processing was in fact in use on the subject property,” said Petrucci.

“Truly, it cannot be considered good planning or in the public interest to exempt the only indoor cannabis facility from the Cannabis bylaw,” he wrote adding it “defeats bylaw’s purpose.”

Snider, in a letter to council, said Enniskillen Pepper would move any drying operations to the north end of the greenhouse, more than 250 meters from the Brand property, to reduce the odour problems
if it was given the exemption.

But with only four members of Enniskillen council around the table, the exemption request failed with a tie vote in September, prompting Enniskillen Pepper to launch another appeal.

It is unclear how long the Ontario Land Tribunal case will take.

Another hearing date has been set for Feb. 7, where it is likely lawyers will hash out whether the two appeals can be heard at the same time, as the lawyer for Enniskillen Pepper suggested.

Meantime, Cannim Canada an Australian based cannabis company – has already received a licence to cultivate and process cannabis at the Lasalle Line greenhouse.

The company had been partners in another cannabis operation in Chatham-Kent called Medisun, which went bankrupt.

Cannim, according to the bankruptcy filings, had already secured the Enniskillen greenhouse for its new location in December 2022. Before township council even considered whether the greenhouse could have an exemption at its Sept. 18 meeting, Cannim had notified the township administration it was seeking a Health Canada licence for production there.

When The Independent revealed Cannim was onsite at the building, Mayor Kevin Marriott, McCallum and Krall all said they had not been notified another cannabis company was at work there despite the fact Cannim had sent a letter of intent to the township administration Aug. 28.

Health Canada granted the company a licence for the Enniskillen greenhouse Oct. 27.

The company has not answered any questions about when it will begin producing cannabis onsite.

Enniskillen Pepper officials say they plan to grow mini cucumbers onsite as well with the first crop
being produced in 2024.

Tuesday, Councillor Mary Lynne McCallum said she believes that while the new Official Plan amendment is being challenged, the old rules still apply which may allow the company to start up production immediately.