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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. CannTrust receives permit for 390,000-square-foot expansion in Pelham, Ont.
  2. Original plan for a 600,000-square-foot expansion met opposition from the local government. 
  3. CannTrust says it will still hit its previously announced production targets. 

CannTrust Holdings Inc. has cut the size of a planned facility expansion in Pelham, Ont. by a third, following pushback from the local community and the rejection of one of its building-permit applications by the municipal government.

The cannabis grower announced Tuesday that it has received permits to build a 390,000-square-foot greenhouse facility near its current site. CannTrust had planned to build a 600,000-square-foot facility, but was not granted a second permit needed for the full expansion.

Despite the smaller build-out, CannTrust will still hit its 100,000 kilogram/year production target by 2020 by using “a lot more automation, a lot more technology,” said CannTrust chief executive Peter Aceto.

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"Both were going to be new builds, but our undisclosed plan was going to be a lower quality greenhouse than we have today, to be very honest with you. So we've decided to change that... and go for a higher quality greenhouse than was originally planned," Mr. Aceto told Cannabis Professional.

CannTrust’s expansion plans have faced months of opposition from the Pelham municipal government, which is trying to slow the expansion of the cannabis industry in the area. The prime agricultural region in the centre of the Niagara Peninsula is now home to six licensed marijuana growers, and local residents are increasingly complaining of odor and light pollution from these operations, according to Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin.

In October, the municipal government passed an “interim control bylaw” putting a year-long freeze on any new building permits being issued for cannabis operations. CannTrust finished one of its expansion permit applications before the bylaw came into effect, but a second application was deemed incomplete prior to the Oct. 16 deadline.

The local government only greenlit CannTrust’s 390,000-square-foot expansion to avoid a costly lawsuit, said Mr. Junkin.

"If we had gone to court trying to prevent CannTrust from doing their expansion, which is against our interim control bylaw, we would probably have lost, because they had a completed application in before the bylaw was passed. For that reason, and that reason only, we didn't want to get involved in a legal battle we couldn't win, so we granted them an exemption under the bylaw," said Mr. Junkin.

"Don’t get me wrong, everybody likes to see the jobs. But the downside is when you have people who have been lifetime residents of the town have their quality of life diminished by 24-hour odour problems, it diminishes the job aspect greatly,” he added.

Mr. Aceto claims his company has never received odour complaints – although it has heard concerns about light – and has “more support than may be coming across in the people that are complaining.”

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“We employ over 250 people, we try to be a very good member of the community and be very respectful as well… There are light issues that we are going to take steps to remedy and to fix, and certainly with our new build we're going to be very respectful of the community as well.

"There's different ventilation which allows for different light-dampening blackout curtains and a variety of things along those lines,” he said.

CannTrust isn’t the only company that has had to revise plans due to opposition from local government. In July, Hamilton’s city council rejected The Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd.’s plans to build a 123,000-square-foot cannabis greenhouse in the nearby town of Ancaster – an expansion contrary to the city’s agricultural zoning bylaws. TGOD has appealed the decision to Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

CannTrust plans to begin construction on its new facility immediately. It intends to finish the building and begin producing cannabis by the second half of 2020.

“Let’s just say we’re hoping they do a better job on the buildings they’re going to be putting up, than what we have been seeing from their existing buildings. And we will be holding them to their promises,” Mr. Junkin said.

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