News

Potential for pot crop impacts land sale

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

(File photo)

(File photo)

SIMCOE  - 

A vegetable farmer looking to sell a piece of land has been put in a bind as Norfolk council looks at rules for marijuana grow operations.

Bill Nightingale Jr. of Nightingale Farms, a large scale producer of asparagus, beans, peppers among other crops, built a greenhouse on 215 Windham Road 10 North, Delhi last year with the aim of growing organic cucumbers.

Hydro prices increased to the point the facility was no longer viable so the operation applied for a farm split that would allow the sale of 7.9 acres of land, which includes the new 2.9-acre greenhouse and a single-detached dwelling. The package is listed for $3 million.

The MLS listing states the facility could be used for “future growing and expansion of medical marijuana, once licensed through the government”. Council has been fielding complaints of pungent smells stemming from small growing operations locally. They’ve asked staff to look into what it has the authority to do, and what it can’t control under its current bylaws. The report is expected back in the coming weeks, so a decision on the Nightingale farm split was deferred until that time.

“It remains within the realm of possibility that the new owner could be licensed to be a designated grower of medical marijuana ... when recreational marijuana is legalized in July of 2018, it’s really not a stretch to say that this facility could possibly be used for that purpose,” said Ed Dertinger, who lives about 60 metres from the greenhouse.

Dertinger told council on Tuesday that he worries not only about the smell, but a constant glow of light that would shine on his house at all hours, diminishing his property value.

“It (the smell) is going to be outside and inside our house, possibly for the rest of our lives if this goes through as a marijuana facility,” he said.

“I just don’t want to live like that.”

Simcoe Coun. Doug Brunton agreed with those concerns.

“He’s got a good point,” said Brunton. “He’s 60 metres from (the greenhouse) and it’s marijuana, I don’t care how they grow it or what the kind is, he’s going to suffer.”

Brunton did suggest the Nightingale operation could legally lease the property if it cannot be sold.

Allowing the split pending a site plan approval was raised but staff advised that council can’t strictly prohibit the growth of a crop within the county.

Simcoe Coun. Peter Black said waiting for the staff report on marijuana regulations is “the responsible thing for us to do”.

The decision to defer – which passed 5-3 with Brunton, John Wells and Noel Haydt voting against – has put the Nightingale business in peril, said Bill Nightingale Jr.

As hydro prices rose, Nightingale was told he’s unable to apply for class-A buying, which equates to half price hydro, because the operation is too small.

“I don’t want to spend $10 million to get to that size,” Nightingale said. “Now I’m selling it hoping that someone wants it and because the word marijuana is used they’re denying me of that. Now I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills.”

Nightingale Farms utilizes about 1,500 acres and employes upwards of 300 people at peak season. Nightingale Jr. said he plans to appeal the decision with the Ontario Municipal Board.

“I can’t wait, I need to pay my bills,” he said.

jrobinson@postmedia.com