A family wishing to develop a new greenhouse in Kneehill County can move ahead with the project after councillors approved the rezoning following a public hearing at their regular meeting Oct. 13.
David and Isabelle Price previously applied to rezone about 121.56 acres of agriculture land located at SW 30-29- 25 W4 to Agriculture Business zoning.
Barb Hazelton, manager of planning and development stated the proposal already received first reading and was publicly advertised.
“The subject parcel is bound by Highway 575 on the south and Range Road 26-0 on the west,” stated Hazelton in the agenda memo.
“This is a 121-acre parcel. The lands being considered in the re-designation are directly north of Acme.
These lands do fall within the Intermunicipal Development Plan and have been highlighted to be commercial or industrial lands within this plan.
“The long-term plan is to have 70 to 75 acres of commercial greenhouse producing locally grown produce.
The initial phase will be 20 acres with proposed construction to commence in the fall of 2020. First production will be available in the winter of 2021.
“The facility will recycle all the water used in the production as well as rainwater and snowmelt from the roof.
Supplemental water may be required and will be supplied by water wells and connecting to the municipal system.
“Wastewater generated will only be from washroom and lunchroom use. The expectation will be that they can tie into the Village of Acme system as the capacity allocated to Soleterra is not fully utilized.
“Approximately 50 jobs will be created by Phase 1. Production from the greenhouse will be strawberries and tomatoes. No retail sales will be available from the greenhouse itself.
“Biosecurity is very important, so visitors will be limited.
“The products are expected to be available locally through existing retail food stores and also sold across Alberta, the prairie provinces and beyond.
“The output will equal about one semi-truck load of product per day so additional traffic will be minimal.”
During the presentation, Reeve Wittstock asked for a clarification about an illustration presented, asking if the proposal included four rooms on 17 acres. Hazelton answered, yes, that was correct.
Applicant Price then spoke. He stated a greenhouse was a good opportunity for this region and noted that if strawberry sales go well, that end of the operation will be expanded.
Price noted there’s not a lot of strawberry production in Alberta.
He noted plans call for the tomato part to be expanded over the next few years.
Price stated he feels the location is ideal for a greenhouse and confirmed Phase 1 will create about 50 jobs.
Coun. Debbie Penner, examining the agenda illustrations, asked what a “tri-generation system” was.
Price answered the facility intends to offer year-round production so would have a natural-gas based eight megawatt power system.
Coun. Glen Keiver asked how water will be warmed. Price answered the facility will have a boiler and co-generation system.
Penner asked about “black out blinds.” Price answered they reduce light escaping from the greenhouse, plus prevent heat loss.
Hazelton stated the Village of Acme sent a letter of support for the greenhouse, which stated they supported the project as having great benefit for the region.
It was stated at the hearing that water wells for the greenhouse would be licensed through Alberta Environment, which would monitor water usage and that the greenhouse could also access the municipal water system.
Price also stated snow melt and rainfall will be used at the greenhouse.
It was also stated earth work was already being done at the site in question because a development permit for that work was issued.
Hazelton stated the applicant went ahead with the work knowing council could still turn down the rezoning.
After the public hearing was closed, councillors unanimously approved second and third reading of the rezoning bylaw.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter