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Council hears heavy opposition to greenhouse rezoning

Posted on December 10, 2019 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Justin Seward
Commentator/Courier

Ruben’s Veggies’ owners Ruth, Ben and Chloe Veurink were in Cypress County chambers to give their take on the proposed land use reclassification to potentially build a 10-acre greenhouse on their Range Road 72 property , north of Highway 523 on Tuesday.

Council moved first reading to allow discussion in a public hearing.

The Veurink’s proposal is to reclassify a 128-acre piece of land from Agricultural District 2 to Agriculture District 4- Greenhouse.
If the land use reclassification were to go through, there would be a greenhouse built with artificial lighting and an attached warehouse.
Chloe addressed some of the concerns that were brought up through discussions with people.
“We would not be considering putting up a greenhouse if we thought it impacted the enjoyment of our residence,” she said.
Chloe says there were concerns of them expanding much larger than the proposed 10 acre greenhouse.
“We cannot guarantee we’re going to stay 10 acres in size but I can reassure that we are a family business. We just want what everyone else wants and just to be successful and plan in keeping that success in our family,” she said.
Another concern was building greenhouse and its lighting.
“I know many expressed concerns about not being able to see the stars at night and losing the enjoyment of the dark country sky,” said Chloe.
“ We plan on blocking out 80 per cent of the light at all times at the roof and walls of the greenhouse. Further the shade curtains block out 99 per cent of light when completely closed. The curtains will only open to a maximum of 20 per cent when we’re releasing heat and humidity from the greenhouse.”
When greenhouses were originally built, they were not required to have black out curtains and is why there is more light pollution on the Holsom Road and Highway 3 while Ruben’s Veggies Greenhouse will have a lot less light produced, she added.
Waterways were another issue that was raised.
“Greenhouses are very water efficient,” she said.
“More efficient than traditional field agriculture. For example it takes 15 litres of water per kilogram of tomatoes produced in a greenhouse compared to 60 litres of water per kilogram of tomatoes in a field.”
General waste was also brought up and the vegtable company will have a compost site available for biodegradable waste and non-biodegradable waste.
She does not figure there will be any noise noticed.
Additionally at this facility there would be five work trucks on site for transportation between certain hours.
Nearby subdivsion Craig Elder spoke against the application during the public hearing.
“There are approximately 70 residential properties within two-and-a-half kilometres of the proposed development, with a majority of those within a kilometre,” said Elder
“Approximately 70 residential properties pay $250,000 in property taxes to the county. Whereas the land in question pays less than$2,000. Existing residential properties in the affected area of the proposed development have been in place for a number of years. It’s one of the largest residential clusters outside of any hamlet development in the county.
“The proposed development would reduce the enjoyment of the residents in the following ways: increased light pollution, increased traffic on an already busy road, increased dust and ware on roads. (The) concentration of transient workers on the properties of staff housing allowed to be built, increased noise of the operation will run 24/7, increased agriculture waste on the land and waste water issues on the land.”
Amanda Dyck lives across the street from Elder in the same subdivision.
She says there are many residences that are too close to this development, reducing property values and this proposed development will pay little property tax.
Should this development proceed, we and others will pursue reassessment of our property values due to the losses we incur,” she said.
Karmin and Thomas Emerson submitted an oppostion letter outlining issues including light pollution.
“One of the biggest reasons for movoing outside the city is to escape light pollution,” the letter said.
“Light Pollution has an adverse affect on the natural production of melatonin levels, directly interfering with sleep cycles and contributing to sleep disorders. On top of the effects to humans, light pollution has negative effects on wildlife and insects.
“As there is already light pollution being emitted from a greenhouse to the east, it is less than ideal to have another one, much closer to home.”
County Coun. Dustin Vossler says he’s OK with the greenhouse.
“I have no objection to it,” he said.
“If they’re going to control the light like they’re saying they’re going to control it. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be allowed. The 20 per cent coming from that isn’t no worse than what you’re getting off the city. Our goals in the strategic plan is agriculture first and by definition, greenhouses are agriculture.”
Deputy Reeve Richard Oster says when the county looks at its strategic plan down the road to may be consider restricting any further development on acreages because the greenhouse business being there and expanding.
“The other thing I think we need to look at is increasing the buffer zone because it’s at 100 meters now, well maybe we have to double that just to give people a little bit more room and are little bit more established there now. There is no other place to build greenhouses. If you only have irrigation water, it’s not feasible. That means they’re going to be south of the highway and going to be west. I don’t know legally if we can stop greenhouse development because it is deemed agriculture.”
Oster said “Before anyone decides to sue us based on our decision either way, it’s something I would ask for legal advice on.”
Council voted to get legal advice on the land use amendment which will be brought back to council’s Dec. 17 meeting.

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