By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
A Chatham-Kent councillor is getting ahead of potential greenhouse issues after problems have popped up in Chatham-Kent’s neighbouring municipalities.
At last week’s meeting, council unanimously passed West Kent Coun. Melissa Harrigan’s motion mandating staff to return to council with a report outlining recommendations to proactively address any potential light nuisance from greenhouses in Chatham-Kent.
Harrigan said the point of the motion is to ensure greenhouse businesses can continue to grow while also protecting the dark night skies of Chatham-Kent.
“The issue has certainly become much more pressing in (other) communities than it is in (Chatham-Kent) at this point. But I think it is now a good time to review and consider the possible options here, ” said Bruce McAllister, general manager of community development for Chatham-Kent.
The report will be ready next April, to allow time to consult with all community stakeholders.
The issue was brought to Harrigan’s attention by her constituents in Wheatley who can see the greenhouse lights from Leamington all the way to Detroit. In the past several weeks, both Leamington and Kingsville passed nuisance bylaws in regard to greenhouse lighting impacts, both taking different approaches to the allowable limits.
Deb Mineau, owner of Wenzler’s Landing B&B, is concerned a new greenhouse in Leamington which sits right on the Wheatley border will cause light, smell and increased traffic issues, prompting her to reach out to Harrigan.
Mineau said it is an issue that crosses municipal borders.
“It’s a scientific fact that (the lights) affect the wildlife. It messes everything up because nature needs a certain amount of dark and light,” she said. “It affects our birds and mating habits.”
Mineau has planted corridors of trees connecting them to nearby woodlots so animals can safely traverse from one area to the other.
“Well now all of the sudden if you put up lights, they won’t travel because they will put themselves at risk from predators.”
Although Leamington has since put in a light bylaw, Mineau said municipalities need to work together because a new greenhouse facility, proposed by WJI Farms Inc., on Hickson Road, could halt Wheatley’s business and housing expansion.
“People come here because of the dark sky,” she said. “You can’t do that in cities. Rural areas have always been the reprieve from that.”
A bylaw for the municipality of Chatham-Kent has not been discussed, and Jay Cunningham, president of the Kent Federation of Agriculture, is hoping things don’t go down that route.
“I don’t know if a bylaw is the right thing. I guess I’d like to see them approach the greenhouse producer first and see if they’re planning on implementing some sort of countermeasures like screens or curtains or something,” he said.
Cunningham added that Chatham-Kent has the potential to be the next hotbed of greenhouse expansion.
“So I would have to say that there should be able to be a balance between what the farmers feel they need to do and unintentionally infringing on the rights of the residents around them.”