• Rob Hornberger

Town seeks $250,000 deposit to ensure greenhouse complies with light-abatement agreement

Double Diamond's eight-year delay frustrates councillors

Double Diamond on the Graham Sideroad has yet to respond to a town request for $250,000 in "financial securities" over the company's failure to comply with certain aspects of a 2012 site plan agreement, including light-emission restrictions.

KINGSVILLE — The Town of Kingsville is still waiting for $250,000 in “financial securities” it requested from a local greenhouse operator to ensure compliance with a 2012 site plan agreement that placed restrictions on light emissions.

The demand for a cash deposit arose last November when Double Diamond Acres Ltd. requested a site plan amendment to build a 9,613-square-foot bunkhouse for migrant farm workers at its Graham Sideroad location.

Town councillors in a Nov. 23 meeting expressed frustration with Double Diamond asking for an amendment to a site plan the greenhouse operator had not — in certain areas — been in compliance with since 2012.

“I like the idea of a bunkhouse on the site, I don’t like idea when (someone) applies for something and they are not even complying with what we already have,” said Deputy Mayor Gord Queen.

The site plan also requires paving in front of the greenhouse operation.

Robert Brown, manager of planning and development services, said the town has been told by Double Diamond that the installation of ceiling curtains is “in the works” and that paving had been delayed because of winter.

Brown said council is in a difficult position because town policy encourages greenhouse operators to build safe, onsite accommodation for workers to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“I want to get compliance but at the same time I want to get these bunkhouses started as well,” he told council in November.

Several councillors agreed, but said a financial inducement was required.

“This is very challenging for us,” said Coun. Laura Lucier. “I don’t want to stop the bunkhouses from being built and safety measures from being taken, I think some strong financial securities might be the way to handle this.”

“I’m a little disappointed in the fact that we’ve allowed this to go on for eight years … I think in the future we may need to take care of things in a timely manner and not allow it to go this far.”

Council discussed a $100,000 surety — Queen suggested $1 million — but eventually decided on $250,000, an amount Brown felt would cover the cost of the paving and installation of roof curtains.

Brown said greenhouse operators tend to respond quickly when they have a financial stake in abiding by the terms of a site plan agreement.

Coun. Tony Gaffan said gaining compliance from growers to previously agreed site plans should not be allowed to drag on for long periods of time.

“I’m a little disappointed in the fact that we’ve allowed this to go on for eight years … I think in the future we may need to take care of things in a timely manner and not allow it to go this far.”

All members of council — with the exception of Queen — voted in favour of approving the site plan amendment allowing construction of the bunkhouses and also requiring the $250,000 deposit to guarantee compliance with the 2012 site plan.

“I fully support the idea of putting in the bunkhouses, but I cannot vote in favour of the document before us when they are knowingly in non-compliance,” Queen said.

As of Wednesday, the town had not received the $250,000 and Mayor Nelson Santos said Double Diamond is likely weighing its legal options.

He said the demand for a deposit has nothing to do with the bunkhouse — only the installation of ceiling curtains and required paving.

The Observer contacted Double Diamond on Tuesday and Wednesday for comment but did not receive a reply.

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