The owner/operator of a large indoor lettuce-growing operation south of Silt has been asked to find ways to reduce the amount of light emanating from the facility.
Some neighbors of the Spring Born greenhouse operation have complained to Garfield County officials about light glare coming through their windows in the early morning hours.
“I’ve been woken up at 3 a.m. every day by this since Aug. 11, 2021,” Kim Barta said during a county commissioners meeting on March 7. She lives to the west of the facility on County Road 331.
An offer by owner Charles Barr to buy blackout curtains for her and other impacted neighbors was, “frankly, insulting,” Barta said. She added she believes the county should have done more research into the lighting impacts before approving the building permit for the facility.
Garfield County Community Development Director Sheryl Bower said a greenhouse is a use by right under the county zoning for that area, and the matter was not required to come before the Planning Commission or the Board of County Commissioners.
There are, however, concerns with the lighting fixtures that are used not complying with the county code.
“There are issues of glare, and we are working to bring them into compliance,” Bower said.
Barr admitted the greenhouse complex does “glow,” especially in the early morning hours when the lighting system automatically comes on until sunrise, then comes on again for a period of time at sunset.
“This is the time of year when the lights are on the most,” he said before the commissioners at the same March 7 meeting. “That will reverse as the season progresses, and the lights come on later.”
Barr said he did offer to purchase blackout curtains for affected neighbors, and is also working on some mitigation measures at the facility itself.
One fix would actually increase the amount of lighting but shorten the amount of time the lights are on. Another solution is to plant an orchard around the facility to obscure the light, for which he is seeking to obtain water rights.
“My intention is to be a good neighbor to everybody in the valley, but all this stuff just takes time,” he said.
Rather than having the neighbors install blackout curtains, county commissioners asked Barr if he could install curtains or some other mechanism to shield the light from escaping the greenhouse.
Barr said that’s only possible on the west wall, because the north and south walls and the ceiling need to remain unobstructed for air flow. The east wall is already shielded by an adjacent building, he said.
Large walls like the ones used to shield oil and gas facilities could be another option.
Commissioner Mike Samson said he was impressed with the lettuce-growing operation and that it’s an important business venture in the county’s economic development efforts.
“But we do have some problems with the glare,” he said. “Spring Born is a good company and is doing some good things, but we need to have some changes.”
Barta said the light impacts go beyond affecting nearby residents to having an impact on wildlife. She claimed eagles and hawks have disappeared from the area, and deer and elk migration patterns have changed since the greenhouse opened.
She requested a timeline for the problem to be addressed.
Commissioners have asked Barr to report back on the various light mitigation options at the March 21 Board of Commissioners meeting.
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