Final local approval needed for Canajoharie E29 plant in early 2023

FILE PHOTOThe old Beech-Nut plant sign in Canajoharie is pictured.
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FILE PHOTO
The old Beech-Nut plant sign in Canajoharie is pictured.

CANAJOHARIE — E29 Labs’ next steps could soon be decided. 

Plans to turn Canajoharie’s ex-Beech-Nut property into a cannabis production facility will receive a final assessment from local and Montgomery County officials within the first two months of the coming year. 

“It’s like running a marathon,” Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said. “You got two miles left and somebody tells you that you’re almost there.”

E29 Labs hopes to eventually build a $15 million to $30 million facility on the property.

The group reached a purchase option agreement with Montgomery County for 19.6 acres of the 26.9-acre site early last year.

The site plan will get a public hearing on Jan. 3 and possible subsequent vote from the village Planning Board. On Jan. 12, the county Planning Board is scheduled to decide on the same plans and, if that’s successful, it’ll hit one final checkpoint with the village Board of Trustees in February. 

“We’re certainly approaching some significant milestones here in this process,” Ossenfort said. 

Cultivation licensing from the state Office of Cannabis Management can only be granted after local approval is cemented. 

Ossenfort is confident that the company will get the green light from state regulators to cultivate and process adult-use cannabis at some point between spring and early summer. 

The property would include a renovated 65,000-square-foot building, a new 50,000-square-foot cultivation and education center and a proposed three-acre solar array. With supplemental landscaping, the grounds would ultimately be 25% more permeable. 

“The project as proposed remains essentially as it has been since the onset,” said Mary Beth Bianconi, a partner at Delaware Engineering D.P.C.

It’s hard to say how long it would take to get up and running, especially given widespread labor shortages, Ossenfort said. Fulton-Montgomery Community College partnered with E29 Labs earlier this year in order to develop cannabis programs to bolster the workforce. 

E29 Labs, run by Sheldon Roberts, Shelley Roberts and Michael Dundas, hopes to eventually bring on as many as 500 unionized workers by their seventh year. For comparison, the Beech-Nut plant had about 350 jobs in Canajoharie in 2009. The first phase of E29’s operations would include about 150 workers.  

Beech-Nut once served as an economic engine for surrounding municipalities before moving to the town of Florida 14 years ago. The national baby food company had been located in the village for 118 years at that point. 

The property was sold in 2013 and stripped away for parts by a previous owner. In 2016, the county was forced to foreclose on the site in a deal with Environmental Protection Agency officials to avoid liability for on-site asbestos contamination.  

Much of the remaining facilities have since been remediated under multi-million-dollar grants. Montgomery County recently approved $4 million in demolition expenses for the area’s 22-building western side.

Outgoing-County Legislator Roy Dimond, who has championed the Beech-Plant project, shored up $35,000 for E29 Labs’ first phase. 

“These people don’t realize that progress takes time — and it’s taken some time, but at least we have things going in the right direction,” Dimond said.

Dimond, a Democrat, was defeated by former Canajoharie Supervisor Herbert Allen, a Republican, in last month’s election.

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, News

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