Council has unanimously approved a $105-million greenhouse development that will broaden our tax base, diversify our economy, help fund our water and wastewater infrastructure and create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs.
This is the first greenhouse operation of this magnitude in Amherstburg and could well lead to further commercial and industrial growth – positive news considering residents currently represent about 88 per cent of our tax base.
Cecelia Acres will be located on a 106-acre parcel of land on Concession Road 3 North, south of the Amherstburg-Essex Greenway and just north of an existing solar farm. It is across the street from the former General Chemical property.
The proponents are planning a phased build-out and ultimately envision the construction of four blocks of greenhouses each with 33 greenhouses covering an area of about 83 acres. There will also be warehousing and office space along with bunkhouses for seasonal workers.
The development will ultimately bring in an estimated $130,000 in annual property taxes and will also bring in water revenue and help the Town maximize capacity at its treatment plant, which was built for 50,000 people.
"We are gaining the water usage, we are gaining the sewer surcharge as well and we are gaining property taxes,” said CAO John Miceli. “It’s going to significantly contribute to our water revenues and our capacity on funding our future capital improvements at the water plant.”
The farming operation will be growing specialty grape tomatoes and has no need for grow lights. The owner does not use grow lights at his two other Essex County locations and there is strict language governing lighting and Dark Sky Compliance in the site plan agreement.
The owner has no intention of growing cannabis, said a representative. In fact, the owner could have grown cannabis on the property while it was zoned industrial but sought the agricultural designation so he could grow tomatoes. Growing cannabis would require a reversion to the prior zoning.
Council asked questions about farm workers and bunkhouses given the surge of COVID-19 in the local agri-farm sector. The owner of Cecelia Acres, Chip Stockwell, took early precautions to stop the spread and his workers tested negative for COVID-19, a representative for the developer told Council.
The federal government announced last week it was investing $58 million to address COVID-19 outbreaks in the agri-farm sector and said this week it will soon unveil a new set of standards and guidelines for the housing of agricultural workers.