Greenhouse owners in Leamington face 88 lighting ordinance charges

Greenhouse lights can be seen in the sky above the Leamington sign.  (Chris Ensing/CBC - photo credit)

Greenhouse lights can be seen in the sky above the Leamington sign. (Chris Ensing/CBC – photo credit)

The municipality of Leamington has filed dozens of charges against greenhouse operators for allegedly breaching new regulations restricting lighting.

Eighty-eight charges were recently filed against 12 greenhouse companies stemming from enforcement that began last November, the community said in a Friday news release.

Mayor Hilda MacDonald said the majority of greenhouses are complying with the ordinance.

“The problem with what we’re seeing right now is that some of the 12 are quite large and the lights are bright simply because of the size of the farm,” MacDonald said.

Leamington passed new greenhouse lighting regulations last June. It was designed to address long-standing complaints from the greenhouse industry about powerful, colorful lights illuminating the night sky.

MacDonald said the community was trying to find a compromise between the needs of the industry, which has grown dramatically over the past four to six years, and the needs of residents.

“We’ve tried to find that balance, and now it has to be where the quality of life for the majority isn’t compromised by an industry that’s growing here,” she said.

Chris Ensing/CBC

Chris Ensing/CBC

Under the Light Reduction Ordinance, greenhouse owners using lights had to close their curtains from 5pm to 8am until October 1st last year

Those without curtains were asked to provide evidence that the covers would be installed on or before October 1 of this year, or to explain that they would not use any greenhouse lighting at all.

The deadline for this documentation was October 1 last year, but the community said it had only heard from two greenhouse owners.

The penalty if convicted is a fine assessed by the magistrate hearing the case.

Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) executive director Richard Lee said it was “regrettable” that the community filed charges before the clarification.

“It’s a new constitution. We want to stick to it,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors. We want to be able to support our community, not only from an economic perspective, but also to be able to create that relationship where we can work together.”

MacDonald said she was surprised by the OGVG’s response as work on the issue dates back to a 2020 bylaw.

The OGVG challenged this ordinance through the provincial body that hears disputes over agricultural practices.

An agreement to this effect was signed between the municipality, OGVG and other producers, and an updated version of the statute was adopted last year.

“Because the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association is an arm or a representative of this industry, I think it would be up to them to provide education,” MacDonald said.

Colin Côté-Paulette/Radio Canada

Colin Côté-Paulette/Radio Canada

Lee said supply chain issues are hampering compliance with the statute. There are delays in sourcing the curtains and there are also delays in sourcing contractors to install them, so he wishes some leniency for growers.

MacDonald said the October 2023 deadline was set to allow time for the curtains to be received and installed.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” she said. “We announced the statutes. They’re in the media, they’re in the newspapers, they’re on our website.”

Used by both the vegetable and cannabis growing industries, the lights are used to supplement sunlight, especially during times of the year with less daylight.

Lee said this supports year-round production and ultimately makes the food supply safer.

“I think if we’ve learned anything about the pandemic, the need for food security is paramount to North America’s diet. There have been challenges where people have been concerned about having affordable grocery access during these times during the pandemic and farming has been an essential service so they weren’t missing out.”


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