JOSHUA THOMAS / E29 Labs plans to build a marijuana cultivation and production facility on 19.6 hectares of the Exit 29 location in Canajoharie.
CANAJOHARIE – Part of the Exit 29 site may become an adult cannabis cultivation and production facility.
During the Tuesday meeting of the Montgomery County Legislature’s Economic Development and Planning Committee, officials entered into a funded exclusive development option agreement with E29 Labs for 19.6 acres – the cleared eastern portion – of the Exit 29 site. The legislature is expected to vote on the agreement at its next meeting.
The agreement reached on Tuesday will be converted into a purchase and sale agreement until E29 Labs completes a twelve month due diligence review.
The three-phase project is expected to last between 7 and 10 years. With E29 Labs partner and vice president Michael Dundas finding that state laws to legalize cannabis are brand new, delays in the regulatory process are expected.
The E29 Labs team consists of Dundas, President Sheldon Roberts and Chief Executive Officer Shelley Roberts.
Dundas, an entrepreneur and lawyer in the legal cannabis sector, said he founded Sira Naturals in 2013 and grew it into one of the largest vertically integrated cannabis organizations in Massachusetts.
At the end of his tenure at Sira Naturals, which was sold in 2019, Dundas said he met the Roberts siblings at a convention in Las Vegas.
During their visit to Canajoharie, Sheldon and Shelley – a real estate management specialist and an entrepreneur – first saw Exit 29, the former beech and nut plant, with the aim of buying real estate in order to open a hemp farm.
Sheldon said he and his sister “fell in love with the area’s originality and beauty immediately”.
When visiting the website, Dundas said: “In short, we work as partners here.”
All three people will work full-time to bring to life their vision of creating an adult cannabis cultivation and production facility on site.
“As part of the community, the first instinct is always to make it a better community,” said Sheldon of the team’s goals.
District chief Matthew Ossenfort said the E29 Labs team understand the importance of the site to Canajoharie and the district.
Dundas said the process for the business will be guided by the legal and regulatory timeline that the state will eventually set. He said that once the ball starts rolling on a statewide legalization of cannabis, state-level regulators will typically be assembled over a period of 3 to 6 months. These bodies will enact regulations that provide rules for a nationwide cannabis program and licensing process. When this is completed, a specific timeline for the development of the eastern portion of the Exit 29 site will become clear, according to Dundas.
Dundas said they would like an application to be filed with the state by January 2022. He said E29 Labs will be “lucky” to be licensed in 12 to 13 months, with each phase of the project potentially lasting several years.
Based on previous experience, Dundas said the three phases of the project could potentially create more than 500 union jobs, with 150 being created in phase one and that number doubling in phase two.
District Manager Matthew Ossenfort reminded everyone of the work on the Exit 29 site, which involved a year-long task force of shareholders, environmental studies, and millions of dollars in remediation.
“On this trip we really came together as a group, as a team, with the common goal of giving back some hope and something positive to the village of Canajoharie, but also to create a project that is not only beneficial for us, the county, but also for them Region, ”said Ossenfort.
Canajoharie owner Matthew Downs thanked E29 Labs for choosing to start the project in an area that it benefited significantly and said, “This will have such an impact on our community.”
“That’s part of the story,” replied Dundas.
He said transparency is important to E29 Labs, which it has learned from successful projects, and will remain important throughout the year-long process.
“If you have any concerns or questions, knock on our door and we will answer,” he said.
Janet Lee Stanley, owner of Lee’s Wagner Square stores and president of the Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge Chamber of Commerce, said she went into tears while viewing a depiction of planned Exit 29.
“This will make downtown better,” she said.
The marijuana producer could help turn the village into a real tourist attraction, Stanley said.
Canajoharie Mayor Jeff Baker said the village officials are looking forward to the project. A meeting to provide more information to the public will be held in the village next month, he said.
Meetings between E29 Labs and village officials will also take place shortly to discuss issues such as potential water use.
Ossenfort said the county will continue to work on redeveloping the western portion of the former Beech-Nut site, which includes the former office buildings that line Church Street. The county still has about $ 1 million left for this portion of the Exit 29 location.