Hydroponic Greenhouse Project approved!

05-12-2019    17:48   |    Spectrum News

USA/ATLANTA-The Town of Webster Planning Board approved an Atlanta-based farming operation's request to build several hydroponic greenhouses in the area, but some who live in the town are not in favor of the plan.

Dave Whipple has lived on State Road in Webster for more than 40 years, an area he loves for the rural countryside.

“I was like 24 years old at the time, and it’s been like this ever since and we don’t want to see it go away,” Whipple said.

He’s worried a series of hydroponic greenhouses being proposed across the street from him would change that.

“Look at this place, it’s gorgeous out here. It’s one of the last spots in Webster that’s wide open, and they want to put a factory in a residential area," said Whipple. "Do you know what it will do to the roads, the neighbors? It’s insane.”

Atlanta-based C.E.A. Fresh Farms was before the Town of Webster Planning Board Tuesday night to seek approval for the project. They want to build seven greenhouses across more than 140-acres on State Road between Salt Road and County Line Road to grow climate-controlled lettuce and other leafy-greens year-round.

“We’ll have the opportunity to actually grow about 30-times greater per acre indoors than you can outdoors, and at the same time use 95-percent less water,” C.E.O of Fresh Farms Kevan Fight said.

The expected turnout for the meeting was so large that it had to be moved to Webster Thomas High School’s auditorium. Many residents like Whipple oppose the project, sporting green “NO GROW FACTORIES” signs in their yards.

“I’m not against the farm, I understand that’s the new type of technology and it’ll be our future, but there’s plenty of sites that are industrial sites like Xerox which have spots available for projects like this not being utilized.” said Taylor Chamberlain, a neighbor.

Like Whipple, Chamberlain is concerned about the environment, wildlife and traffic the greenhouses would create.

“There’s going to be tractor trailers in and out throughout 24/7, and this road isn’t meant for tractor trailers, it’s pretty small,” Chamberlain said.

But Fight says those roads were built for traffic of 14,000 cars a day, and he doesn’t expect to use even a third of that allowance. And he says they’re seeking a clean bill of health for the property from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Are we going to be able to satisfy all their concerns? Probably not, but we’re going to try and do so. But at the end of the day, I want to be a good neighbor, be a good corporate citizen," Fight said. "We are creating jobs, and we’re impacting very few people and very few properties compared to the overall size of Webster.”

Fight says the project would create nearly 400 jobs over five years. Which is why residents like Paul Bicksler support it.

“It’s important we can actually be a leader in that technology and grow high quality vegetables, provide 375 jobs and grow the economy of our community,” Bicksler said.

If everything goes according to plan, C.E.A. Fresh Farms hopes to start construction in spring and have the first greenhouse up on a test basis this time next year.

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Photo Courtesy of Spectrum News

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