Ontario Greenhouse Growers Facing Increased Water Use Charges

This past week, the Chatham-Kent Municipal Council in Ontario, Canada, passed its 2024 development charges for water and wastewater that will result in a cost of approximately $179,000 per acre for any new greenhouse development in the municipality. These development fees will gradually escalate to $366,000 per acre by 2029, driving investment in greenhouse growth to other jurisdictions having negative impacts on the economic contributions the greenhouse sector offers in Chatham-Kent.

A delegation from Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG), including growers and staff, presented deputations to Council before its decision. Greg Devries of Truly Green, who operates a multifaceted farming operation that includes greenhouse operations in Chatham-Kent, described the more than 3,000 direct and indirect spinoff jobs created by the 473 acres currently existing in Chatham-Kent.

“Locally, companies like Honey Electric, Dordt, and Timbertech Construction have over 50% of their business dedicated to the greenhouse industry,” he said of local businesses. Devries further attested that “the sudden increase in development charges will increase the cost of a planned and financed 30-acre build at the Cedar Line location by $2.55M for just water and wastewater.”

George Dekker representing Mucci Farms described how greenhouses strive to minimize impact on municipal infrastructure.

“We dig wells, we build water ponds to house rainwater, sometimes we have developments that will take water out of the lake, this is all to minimize our impact on the public infrastructure of water.” Dekker said, “Development charges should be site-specific and considered case-by-case based on the many water conservation measures employed by greenhouses.”

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The municipality of Chatham-Kent amended its by-law to reflect the existing alternatives exempting farms that chose to access private water and wastewater services that will be subject to the approval of the Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

“Notwithstanding the high development charges, Chatham-Kent sees the economic, employment, and food security benefits brought by greenhouse development,” said Richard Lee, Executive Director of OGVG, speaking of Chatham-Kent Municipal Council. “They have signaled they want to continue engaging with the sector to support growth, development, and food security, but in essence, they have now hung a ‘closed for business’ sign at their municipal offices for any future planned greenhouse growth.”

In a further demonstration of sincerity towards greenhouse development, council unanimously (18-0) supported the formation of a working group of stakeholders made up of municipal staff, utilities, and greenhouse farms.

“Chatham-Kent wants greenhouse development to support growth which unfortunately can’t happen under egregious development charges in place,” said OGVG Chair George Gilvesy. “Development may be frozen today but all stakeholders are looking for a thaw and growth to come to Chatham-Kent.”

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