South Portland commercial greenhouse gets go-ahead

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The Planning Board on Tuesday night approved an amended site plan for a half-million dollar commercial greenhouse in the industrial section of the city. 

The proposed 14,200-square-foot greenhouse will be built on a 2-acre lot at 25 Duck Pond Road. The applicant and developer, John Crowley, doing business as 110 Dartmouth Street LLC, plans on leasing growing space to tenants. 

The goal of the project is to provide urban agriculture space for local restaurants. 

The design of the greenhouse will be a metal frame with glass panels underneath plastic. In addition to the greenhouse, a 5,000-square-foot gravel area for soils and material storage, as well a parking area for eight vehicles, several generator pads, a transformer, and job trailer are proposed. 

“That’s a lot of tomatoes and vegetables to make this commercially viable,” said board member William Laidley, who questioned compliance rates and the experience of the development team in working with similar projects, as well as noting the city has not had a similar project come before the board. 

Project engineer Daniel Diffin, of Sevee & Maher Engineers, said no tenants have yet been secured to lease the space. Diffin said he has worked on similar commercial agriculture projects with Backyard Farms in Madison and Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. 

Department of Environmental Protection permits have been secured for the project, Diffin said. 

As one condition of the approval, marijuana cultivation will not be allowed at the site unless the state and city allow such a use and the necessary permits and licenses are in place, said Tex Haeuser, the city’s planning director. Crowley is not seeking to grow marijuana, Haeuser noted. 

Inspection of the site by the city’s code enforcement officer is also a condition of approval. 

The greenhouse can be partitioned off into four units, depending on the type of vegetables or herbs being produced. A compost shelter will also be built at the facility, Diffin said. 

Some board members questioned how a pesticide management plan would be developed and enforced.

Diffin said a plan would be the responsibility of the individual tenants. Such plans would have to be approved by the city’s sustainability director. 

During the public comment period, resident Russ Lunt said the greenhouse sounds like a wonderful project that fits well in the area where it’s proposed, near the Public Works Department, the city’s landfill, and other commercial operations, such as Hannaford Bros..

“It would be a great addition out there,” Lunt said.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661- ext., 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net

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