A high-tech hydroponic greenhouse operation is now growing more than 200,000 tomato plants in Wapakoneta, but some local residents are complaining about the “overwhelming” glow created from the lights used to grow the produce.
Golden Fresh Farms, a Canadian-based division of Red Sun Farms, opened its $22.5 million, 20-acre greenhouse about an hour north of Dayton near Interstate 75 and U.S. 33. During the next 10 years, Red Sun Farms based in Kingsville, Ontario, wants to construct 200 acres of greenhouses at the site. The completed facility would create 400 jobs with an annual payroll of $15 million.
This first phase of the project will create 82 full-time jobs — 42 year-round and 40 seasonal — with an annual payroll of $2.9 million. Two more greenhouses are planned by 2018 with construction of the second one beginning this year.
Though the greenhouse operation is a huge economic win for the area, some residents are perturbed by a glowing light they say can be seen for miles. John Wehner, who lives about a mile and a half north of the farm, said the light permeates through his bedroom window and has woken him in up in the early hours of the morning.
“We were told it would look like the glow from a normal factory or industrial area,” he said. “It lights up my bedroom enough that it looks like there’s a light on. That’s gong through a curtain.”
Wehner said he’s talked with other residents who live near him and “most are pretty upset.” He said neighbors are worried about their property values and are concerned what happens next when operations continue to grow. He’s reached out to the company, and said he’s gotten no response.
“It’s really kind of been a burden,” he said. “The worst part is, they don’t care at all.”
Light pollution, which has been described as excessive or obtrusive artificial light, can have adverse effects on humans including increased headaches, sleep disorders, fatigue and increased anxiety, according to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.
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Other residents have also reached out to this newspaper via social media, posting photos of the greenhouse operations’ lighting in the distance.
“I drive by it at night and it looks like daylight if there are clouds,” one reader wrote. “I can’t imagine what it would be like if they fire it all the way up. Bummer for those living around it.”
Greg Myers, executive director of the Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council, said the illumination of the lights are impacted by weather conditions — for example, clouds can exacerbate the lights.
“These lights are designed to replicate sunlight,” Myers said.
He said the lights don’t turn on but two hours before the natural sunrise, and the company and city has been communicated how the lights would be configured from the start of the project.
“It’s a change, no doubt,” he said.
This newspaper has also reached out to the company that owns the greenhouse operations.
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