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  • ESSEX FREE PRESS

Bunkhouses, greenhouse to be built at Harrow-area agricultural operation


by Adam Gault

Essex Council gave approval for the construction of farm-labour bunkhouses and a greenhouse in the Harrow-area, following a special meeting and regular Council session on Monday, December 21.

  This decision will allow for a site-specific zoning amendment at 1110 Ridge Road, southeast of Harrow proper, to allow Upper Canada Growers (UCG) to construct a pair of farm-labour housing units on the commercial farming property.

  UCG sought the amendment on the zoned Agricultural District 1.1 property to permit the construction of the two new ancillary buildings, which will provide living quarters for seasonal farm help. This will allow the use of an existing single detached dwelling for accommodations, in addition to the construction of a 37,000 square-foot greenhouse.

  A zoning amendment is required for this project, as under current Town of Essex zoning by-law, only one single detached building is permitted per lot in an A1.1 zoning district.

  Currently, Upper Canada Growers operates a wholesale apple tree farm on the Ward 3 property, in addition to an adjacent parcel of land that encompasses the rest of the agricultural operation.

  Within the current Town Plan, if the size and scale of the farm operation requires agricultural labour assistance, and with no area rentals or accommodations, the importance of keeping workers on or close to the farm necessitates and allows for the construction of the bunkhouses.

  In a report presented by Essex Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, it was noted the bunkhouses would only be used on a seasonal basis. In addition, there were no overt objections from Essex Fire, ERCA, and the Essex Department of Infrastructure Services.

  There were concerns, however, expressed from one Ridge Road resident, Diane York, who felt the construction of the housing units would have a negative impact on her property, including its value, and her family’s privacy.

  “We don’t feel there’s any compatibility between the abutting properties,” York said.

  While members of Council said they understood the homeowner’s concerns, they noted that UCG was within its rights under the current zoning to construct the bunkhouses.

  Ward 3 Councillor Chris Vander Doelen, expressed concerns that considerations need to be made when projects like these are approved, with some in favour and others opposed, as the Town needs to know what the overall impacts of the project will entail.

“How much is the development worth, how many jobs will be created, how much money is going to flow to the Town,” Vander Doelen asked. “These are important considerations on these decisions, I believe. That’s why I ask.”

  UCG President, Robert Haynes, said the lab that processes the operation’s apple trees currently employs around 30 people, and is expected to increase that to 60 over the course of the winter.

  “We’re working on a deal that will bring about 100 million dollars of investment in this area,” Haynes said. “We’re committed to working with the Town, we’re committed to working in this area, we’re committed to local employment where we can get it.”

  The bunkhouses are expected to be completed by the beginning of March.