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May. 22, 2019 | Wednesday
Local News
Residents concerned about $10M sale of Coyote’s Run to Canopy Growth Corp.

 

Most Niagara-on-the-Lake residents were shocked by the sale and closing of Coyote’s Run Estate Winery last week and many of them remain deeply concerned about what cannabis conglomerate Canopy Growth Corp. plans to do on the property.

Thomas Elltoft, a NOTL realtor who has been active in community affairs, was among those upset by the move and questioned whether this means more valuable, prime agricultural land is going to be used to grow cannabis.

“I would hate to see this become a trend that we start to lose good farm property in greenbelt areas,” he said in an interview. “We just want to, maybe, control where we end up before we say all agricultural lands can be covered in greenhousing.”

Canopy has said little about its plans but Jordan Sinclair, Canopy’s vice-president, this week confirmed the Coyote’s Run property isn’t going to be used for wine production.

Canopy bought two parcels of land from Coyote’s Run for just under $10 million. The larger one involves a 58.89-acre land at 485 Concession 5 Rd. and was sold for $9.1 million, according to land registry records.

The second transaction for 5.02 acres at 503 Concession 5 Rd. was sold for $980,000. Both sales closed on Friday, April 26.

Canopy Growth, a publicly traded cannabis company based in Smith Falls, Ont., also runs Tweed Farms, a 1-million-square-foot greenhouse located next to Coyote’s Run.

In regard to the smaller property bought from Coyote’s Run, Canopy is planning to partner with a grape grower to produce wine on the land, Sinclair said.

The purchase wasn’t part of an extension of the existing Tweed Farms’ facility, Sinclair said in an emailed response to questions from The Lake Report.

At this time, Canopy isn’t planning to build more greenhouses on the properties but will instead use existing infrastructure for “sustainable cultivation of grapes and production of wine.”

When asked why the company decided to buy more land in NOTL, Sinclair said, “owning the property adjacent to Tweed Farms felt like it was a good long-term decision.”

Lisa Jeffrey, who was an owner of the Community Transport Group providing wine tours, also was caught off-guard when Canopy’s purchase of Coyote’s Run was announced.

“It’s sad to see the little ones disappearing,” said Jeffrey. Born and raised in NOTL, she said she always tries to support small local businesses.

Jeffrey said she liked to take tourists to smaller wineries, like Frogpond Farm Organic Winery, Coyote’s Run or Cattail Creek Estate Winery. The latter also closed its retail boutique in September 2018.

“Those were the three that I liked to recommend, the lesser-known ones. They were like little jewels in the town,” Jeffrey said in a phone interview.

Gil Hicks, a musician from Niagara Falls who used to perform at Coyote’s Run, sympathized with the winery’s staff.

“It’s a lesser deal for me than it is for the people who actually work there. Some people had jobs there,” he said in a phone interview.

For John Boydell, who lives on Line 9 Road with his partner Frank Francisco, the concern is the smell and noise coming from Canopy’s existing greenhouse operation nearby.

When Boydell and Francisco moved to NOTL last August, the smell of cannabis itself wasn’t an issue for them.

But when Canopy installed about a dozen outdoor fans, along the shared property line, to tackle cannabis odour at the end of last year, it became a problem, said Boydell. The scent coming from the southwest of their property smells like a fabric softener or a room freshener.

“The smell was once in a while but overpowering,” he told The Lake Report. “Now the smell isn’t as bad but the noise is all the time.”

The outdoor fans are working 24/7, said Boydell. He also questioned why they are facing his property.

“The noise grows on you in a bad way,” he said, adding the reason he moved to NOTL was to seek peace and quiet, which isn’t possible due to a constant hum emanating from the turbines.

“This chemical they’re shooting out at our property provides no benefit whatsoever to their plants. It doesn’t increase their value. It doesn’t protect them from wildlife,” he said. “It was better smelling cannabis and it was only intermittent.”

According to a Public Health Canada evidence brief on odours from cannabis operations, marijuana production facilities are recommended to use proper ventilation and filtration systems to mitigate cannabis odour. The report was done in April 2018.

“In general, cannabis production facilities can implement and maintain appropriate ventilation and filtration systems to satisfy applicable local odour nuisance standards,” the report says. “A formal system for residents to document and report nuisance odours can facilitate the enforcement of these standards or municipal bylaws.”

Boydell said he approached the town last week but because his issue is very specific, there are no bylaws regulating the use of turbines aimed at a neighbouring property. Warwick Perrin, town’s supervisor of enforcement, however, talked to Canopy, which said the turbines have been approved by Health Canada.

“But the thing is, is that approved to use 24 hours a day?” said Francisco, a family doctor who is planning to retire soon. “Is it safe to expose children and babies? And I’m sure that will affect their respiratory system.”

“We moved from Toronto to have peace and quiet and it seems like we’re becoming a prisoner in our home because we can’t even go out to enjoy the yard,” Francisco told The Lake Report. “We’re sacrificing our peace and quiet for the profit of their making.”

Both said they have nothing against the production of cannabis but not at the convenience of neighbours.

Canopy is using both oscillating outdoor vapour cannons as well as indoor carbon filters, said Sinclair.

“The wind turbines in use at Tweed Farms are designed and installed specifically to minimize undesired odours which may emanate from our facility,” he wrote. “These devices rotate, following the direction of the wind. This ensures maximum odour mitigation, allowing natural wind patterns to carry odours away quickly and effectively.”

Last August, the previous town council passed an interim control bylaw on cannabis production in both rural and industrial facilities in the town.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said Wednesday that Canopy also has told her it won’t be continuing wine production on the Coyote’s Run property.

“I have heard that Coyote’s Run was having difficulties for a while now and I don’t want to get into whatever their financial capabilities were or their experience,” she said in a phone interview. “Each and every winery is different.” 

“I’m hopeful that this isn’t a trend in the area,” Disero said. “And that it would just simply be one vineyard closing.”

Coun. Erwin Wiens said fellow councillors Wendy Cheropita and Stuart McCormack are working with the town’s agricultural committee and the industry on a cannabis bylaw that could be introduced this August. Wiens also said the winery’s closure came as a shock to him.

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