A proposal for a medical marijuana production and distribution facility in Belleville has won the first leg of the city approval process.
At its meeting last night, the planning committee has approved re-zoning of the former Sears warehouse on College Street East to make way for a medical marijuana production and distribution facility.
The company, Hexo, is planning to lease about 500,000 square feet of the facility from Belleville Complex Inc., which owns the building.
It will be a distribution centre for Hexo.
Company executive Devan Pennell told the committee the idea is to begin hiring in March of next year.
The company hopes to have between 200 and 250 employees at the Belleville operation within the next six to eight months.
Pennell said that if council approves the rezoning, construction at the former Sears building would start this fall. He indicated the project would cost millions to get started.
In answer to questioning from committee members, Pennell said the company will meet strict requirements from Health Canada, including a security system.
Councillor Jack Miller questioned him about the amount of truck traffic involved and Pennell answered he expects only one or two trucks a day.
The Hexo spokesman said the company is based in Gatineau, Quebec and expects to enter the European market, through Greece, in the future.
Paul Bell came to the podium to object to the project. Bell said the city should “Tread carefully…sit back and see what works” for other municipalities.
Planning Chair Councillor Jackie Denyes pointed out she had introduced a Community Standards Policy by-law, now being worked on, which will deal with all the concerns Bell had raised.
There would be a hold on the Hexo project before issuing any permits until the company proves it has licensing from Health Canada.
The rezoning application now goes to city council for approval.