The city’s first legalized marijuana grow operation could eventually create up to 800 jobs in rural south Ottawa if the proposal gets the go-ahead from city council and Health Canada, one of the executives behind the project says.
Artiva, a branch of Ottawa-based LiveWell Foods, wants to set up the grow-op at existing vegetable greenhouses at 5130-5208 Ramsayville Rd. in Metcalfe, near the Hawthorne Industrial Park. The city’s agriculture and rural affairs committee is set to review the firm’s application to rezone the property for marijuana production at its next meeting on Thursday.
Under the three-phase plan, the site’s nearly 550,000 square feet of greenhouse space would be converted from producing food to growing marijuana. A second greenhouse would also eventually be added to the property.
LiveWell co-CEO Seann Poli, who plans to attend Thursday’s meeting, was tight-lipped about the proposal on the weekend. But in an emailed statement to OBJ, he said the planned facility would ultimately bring “up to 800 jobs to rural Ottawa” if it gets the green light.
City staff have endorsed the proposal, and the councillor for the ward says he’ll vote in favour of the plan on Thursday.
Osgoode Coun. George Darouze said he was “shocked” when he first heard about the would-be grow-op several months ago. But after consulting with residents and staff and doing more research into the medical cannabis industry and the facility’s potential economic impact on his ward, he says he’s now fully behind the plan.
Darouze said he spent months talking to his constituents about the grow-op proposal and heard only one complaint from a nearby resident who was worried about potential security breaches, a concern he said he’s confident will be addressed in the site plan.
“It is an agricultural plant, and I’m in an agricultural ward,” said Darouze, who is also the vice-chair of the agriculture and rural affairs committee.
Health Canada is currently reviewing Artiva’s application to become a licensed producer of medical marijuana. All medical pot growers must be approved by the federal government, and 89 producers are currently licensed across the country.
Under city guidelines approved by council in 2014, medical marijuana facilities are permitted only in industrial zones. City staff said they feared indoor grow-ops would damage soil used for farming. Marijuana facilities also must be located at least 150 metres from residential and institutional zones.
However, in a report being presented at Thursday’s meeting, city staff argue that since the grow-op would be set up within an existing greenhouse, there would be little impact on nearby farmland.
The facility “does not change the existing agricultural nature of the property and so protects from the loss of agricultural lands to other non-agricultural uses,” the report says. “Further, the proposed medical marijuana production facility takes advantage of the agriculture nature of the site and its location within a productive farming area.”
The report says the site’s owners are also planning to build a secure fence around the greenhouse buildings to address security concerns. The owners also say the facility will also use a “closed-loop” irrigation system that will not lead to any contamination in nearby wells. Additionally, the property owner says a house that is being rented out at 5130 Ramsayville Rd. would no longer be available for rent if the proposal is approved, ensuring there is no residential use of the property.
Should the committee approve the rezoning, it would go to full council at its next meeting on Feb. 14.