September 12, 2023 By Local Journalism Initiative
By Abby Green, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
People neighbouring a proposed hemp facility in Grimsby are raising a stink about it coming to town, even though the project has been given the green light by the province’s land-use planning arm.
Residents turned out in droves to a Sept. 5 council meeting and a Sept. 6 planning committee meeting to voice their concerns over the potential smell and unanswered questions about the facility slated for 29 Kemp Road East.
The company planning to build the facility, Canurta, went before council in February, saying that the facility would process industrial hemp and other crops to extract polyphenols, which could create various health products.
The original application for a minor variance to a zoning bylaw was denied by Committee of Adjustment in December 2022.
Subsequently, a hearing was held at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) in July, where the tribunal ordered that the facility be allowed provided that “No processing of Hemp leaves or growing or processing of Cannabis or Cannabis-related products shall be permitted on the Subject Property.”
It’s this exception that has councillors and residents alike confused, as the proposed facility is for processing hemp, which is a plant in the cannabis family.
“So is the nuance there that hemp can be processed at the facility, assuming there is approval from Grimsby, that anything that contains CBD, like in the leaf or other cannabis products, would not be allowed?… It looks like it’s conflicting to me,” said committee member Ian Potter.
Walter Basic, the town’s assistant director of planning, attempted to clarify that the growing and processing of cannabis is not permitted on the site, and the restriction on hemp is the processing of hemp leaves.
“So I have some material coming in and I’m allowed to process the stems?” Potter said. “(But) to process the stems, I would have to remove the leaves. But I’m not allowed to remove the leaves (because that would mean) I’m processing the leaves. So, I’m not sure what’s actually being processed at the plant.”
Seven residents delegated, all concerned with the lack of communication from Canurta and alleged circumvention of proper processes, such as building on the site without a permit and a lack of a business plan.
But the biggest concern was still about the potential odour that could come from the facility.
Gordon Van Egmond, a resident who lives near where the facility will be located, said he is baffled by the fact that it seems no one involved has visited a processing facility.
Van Egmond said he works with greenhouses professionally and received correspondence from hemp growers that the facilities smell.
“They state very clearly it is identical to marijuana? and it smells bad when it flowers,” he said.
Lindsay Dixon said that her home, which is west of the subject land, is constantly flooded by the property when it rains or snow melts.
“Now they have all these expectations of putting in this septic system as well, having potentially up to 10 people that are working there,” she said. “What’s going to happen with all of that wastewater groundwater? Where is that all going to end up?”
Another resident, Melissa Shred, said she doesn’t live in the immediate area but wonders how the chip and tar road in front of the proposed business will handle all the truck traffic.
“(The developer) tried to allude to the fact that farmers can harvest their crops. Yes, they harvest crops once a year. That’s it. It’s not every day. It’s not trucks coming back and forth every day,” she said.
Other delegates wondered how the facility was going to be monitored and how much it would cost the town.
Many of these questions were left unanswered, and the committee decided to seek legal opinion on the next steps.
The town had 30 days to appeal the decision with the OLT, but the 30-day window has passed.
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