An aerial view of Stanhope Farm’s composting area. The Lochside Trail is at the bottom of the picture and the proposed pot greenhouses are proposed for the land further to the east of the popular trail. (File)

Massive pot farm in the works for Central Saanich

$500 million project could see as many as 21 greenhouses on 70 acres of land

Central Saanich is being eyed as the home of one of the top three marijuana-producing facilities in the country and construction could begin as early as February of next year.

Shawn Galbraith, one of the partners in Evergreen Medicinal Supply Inc., has announced they are in the final stages of purchasing 70 acres of property from Stanhope Farms in the Martindale Valley area of Central Saanich. The land is located across the Lochside Regional Trail from the site of Foundation Organics — a controversial site in its own right, over the years of composting activity that raised the ire of neighbours over the odour.

In Evergreen’s case, Galbraith says what’s being proposed next door will not have odour issues, as the facility will be enclosed and controlled — much like their existing medicinal marijuana facility in the concrete bunker next to Michell Farms’ store along the Pat Bay Highway.

Evergreen is proposing 21 greenhouses, producing marijuana for the recreational market after Canada’s new laws come into effect next summer. Galbraith said the project is worth an estimated $500 million and could employ as many as 500 people during construction and up to 1,500 people once three phases are complete over the next five to seven years. The project, he said, also has federal government approval.

The first phase includes a main greenhouse building of approximately 150,000 square feet, worth an estimated $25 million. Once complete, another six greenhouses will be built on either side of it. Each of the subsequent two phases would proceed in a similar fashion, Galbraith said, and as capital becomes available over the build-out period.

The first building, he continued, will have greenhouse and office space, and be able to produce around 20,000 kilograms of marijuana a year. The additional greenhouses will be able to produce approximately 35,000 kg/yr each. He’s estimating up to $2 billion in annual revenue. The dried cannabis would only be sold, he said, through legal, licensed distributors.

Galbraith said after they built the pot bunker down the road a few years ago, they realized to meet the demand of an emerging market, Evergreen would have to grow to be able to compete. In all, he said the greenhouses would cover around 36 acres of the property. It would be surrounded by security fencing and a berm with trees along Lochside Trail to reduce its visual impact on the area. There would be a security gate and 24/7 monitoring of the site. Galbraith added there has never been any incidents of crime at their existing bunker facility.

Galbraith, in an interview, said he’s aware of concerns by neighbours over potential noise and light pollution, adding the company is taking steps to reduce that impact. The greenhouses, he said, would be lit up for 12 hours a day and shaded in the evening as part of the cultivation process. He added they are also looking to bus employees to and from the site, from a park-and-ride like space in the Keating Industrial Park. That, he said, would reduce the traffic impact along Lochside Drive.

“We are aware of our impact,” he said. “We want to create a lot of opportunity for the region as well.”

To discuss the impact on their neighbours, Galbraith said Evergreen will host a meeting this week or next for the people who live in close proximity to the property.

He said Evergreen is currently sitting on top of their medicinal marijuana product, having stored it in a vault since they received their cultivation license from Health Canada in March 2017. Galbraith is anticipating their ‘sell’ license for medicinal marijuana soon, following by similar licensing for their recreational product.

“We realize that the market will be huge,” he continued, adding Evergreen has spent the last two years looking for space that was large enough and private enough to operate a large-scale production facility.

Evergreen, said Galbraith will next be applying to the District of Central Saanich to be able to haul in sand and gravel on which to construct their greenhouses. He said if it hadn’t been for this fill requirement, Evergreen would probably have shovels in the ground earlier. That said, Galbraith noted there are water drainage issues in the valley and the construction will take that into account.

Since Evergreen hasn’t been able to sell their medicinal product yet, the company has issued an offering that Galbraith anticipated will raise around $8 million by the new year. As well, investment company Cannabis Wheaton Income Corp. is providing financing to fund the construction of the first, $25 million building. Galbraith added TD Bank has also come forward as a potential backer.

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