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Leamington adopts by-law to reduce light pollution

by Adam Gault

The Municipality of Leamington has agreed to a by-law to limit light pollution from industrial greenhouses within its boundaries. The decision was made at the Council meeting held on Tuesday, December 8, following overwhelming feedback from residents who have had it with yellow and purple night skies.


While Kingsville had previously passed a similar by-law back in late October, Leamington decided to give the decision an extra month for more input from area greenhouse operators and residents.


Around 1,300 residents responded to the request for input, an astounding number compared to other municipal feedback projects, with the vast majority of residents wanting complete light cover on walls and ceilings during the nighttime hours.


Leamington’s Greenhouse Light Abatement By-law will direct greenhouse operators to cover their walls completely from sunset to one hour following sunrise, with ceilings expected to be covered during that same period, except between 2 am and 6 am, where the ceilings may be up to 10 percent open.


Leamington Mayor, Hilda MacDonald, believes neither side will ultimately be satisfied with the by-law, stating that to the growers it goes too far, and for the residents, not far enough.


“We have to balance it,” MacDonald explained. “I think we’ve done a good job at balancing, but do I expect both sides to be happy, absolutely not.”


Greenhouse operators have until April 1 to install the wall coverings, and until October 1 for the ceilings. In the meantime, beginning January 1, greenhouses in Leamington must turn out their lights between 8 pm and 2 am.


Failure to comply with the new by-law will have growers face fines up to a maximum of $1,000, but higher fines could be potentially issued under the Provincial Offences Act.


Under neighbouring Kingsville’s similar by-law, fines for individuals found in violation of the new by-law will start at a maximum $5,000 for a first offense, to as much as $10,000 for additional offences. Corporate offenders can face fines of up to $50,000 for an initial offence, and a maximum of $100,000 for subsequent offences.


“I would have personally liked to see [Kingsville] follow through on their by-law. I live on the border of Leamington and Kingsville,” MacDonald said. “My western sky is lit up at night, and it’s lit up in the early morning. So, quite frankly, I’m not seeing any results from the Kingsville by-law.”


While the adjustment period for growers and residents may still take some time yet, MacDonald believes this by-law will still balance Leamington’s competitiveness when it comes to attracting and retaining commercial growers to the town.


“They will have to find a new way to grow, but they have huge investment here,” MacDonald explained, adding the Town understands the growers have to vent their greenhouses as part of the growing process. “We’re trying to show [growers] that we understand it. That was the hesitancy with rolling something out having not done our homework. We needed to do our homework.”


However, farming practices are generally regulated by the Province, not the municipality, which could give growers the opportunity to challenge these by-laws at the provincial-level if they so desire, with MacDonald adding that it should be up to the industry to regulate itself, or for the Province to steer the ship on this matter.


“We would have loved [the Province] to step forward, we would have loved the industry to self regulate, nobody has had the courage to do that, so it was up to us,” MacDonald said. “We didn’t have any choice in this and I resent that. This isn’t something that we should have to do.”

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