Approval of giant lettuce greenhouse complex

28-05-2020    14:05   |    Democrat & Chronicle

US- Bolstered by a favorable court ruling, opponents of a huge commercial greenhouse in Webster are now awaiting word on the town government's next step.

Atlanta-based CEA Fresh Farms has proposed building about 2 million square feet of greenhouses to grow hydroponic lettuce or other leafy greens, plus other buildings for packaging and office use.

The project would be on 141 acres off State Road between Salt and Monroe-Wayne County Town Line roads in the southeast part of the town. The property has been a farm field.

 

In November, the town Planning Board indicated the greenhouse complex would be a permitted use under the property's zoning designation. A group of Webster citizens argued that the project did not square with the property's zoning, and sought to appeal the decision that the project was a permitted use.

 

But town officials refused to hear that appeal, and the Planning Board gave final approval to the project in December. The residents' group, Webster Citizens for Appropriate Land Use, then brought suit in state Supreme Court.

 

In a decision date May 18, state Supreme Court Justice Gail A. Donofrio ruled that the town had no right to refuse to hear the citizens' appeal. She ordered that Planning Board approval be rescinded and directed the Webster Zoning Board of Appeals to entertain the appeal.

 

Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty, who took office a month after the Planning Board OK'd the project, said Tuesday that town officials "do not know what CEA Farm's intentions are in light of the judge's decision."

 

CEA Fresh Farm, which also was a defendant in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

 

20 times larger than a Lowe's

 

Tim Young, a spokesman for the citizens' group, said they do not know when the Zoning Board will take up the group's appeal, but believe they should prevail.

 

"We feel we’ve got a pretty strong case that it’s not a permitted use as designed," Young said.

He said the zoning designation for the property, large-lot residential, does not allow more than 20% of the parcel to be covered by buildings, with the rest of the land remaining as open space.

Under the current project design, buildings would cover 38% of the property, he said.

"The preference would be that it wasn’t built there at all," Young said. "But we understand that everybody has rights, including builders. So if it is going to be built, it should be built in accordance with the law."

 

Two million square feet of greenhouse space, a figure that's been publicized by the citizens' group, would cover an area about 20 times larger than a typical Lowe's or Home Depot store.

This is the second large commercial greenhouse complex to spark controversy in Webster. Resident opposition helped kill a tomato-growing operation in 2017; that complex was built one town to the east, in Ontario, Wayne County.

 

Source: Democrat and Chronicle

Photo Courtesy of BrightFarms


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