Silt lettuce farm to reduce lighting hours, but increased intensity is trade-off
The operator of an indoor lettuce-growing facility south of Silt says he is altering the period of time when the greenhouses will be lit to try to lessen the impact on neighbors.
But the intensity of the lighting during that time will be greater as a result, Spring Born owner Charlie Barr said during an update to Garfield County commissioners Monday morning.
Spring Born is located on Garfield County Road 331 south of Interstate 70 and the Colorado River. Some neighbors of the facility have complained about light pollution since the facility opened in summer 2021.
No formal complaints have been filed with the county, said Community Development Director Sheryl Bower at Monday’s meeting.
Barr stated in a letter to the commissioners that he is operating legally under his permit requirements. But, “It is my intention to be a good neighbor,” he wrote.
“We need to run these lights, so it’s a matter of determining what the best time is to do that,” Barr said Monday regarding his efforts to work with neighboring residents who have complained to him about the amount of light emanating from the facility at night.
A typical greenhouse operation would turn its lights on in the afternoon, which would remain on after dark until the desired light exposure is reached, Barr explained.
His operation, however, has the lights come on around 1 a.m., staying on until the daylight hours. Some days that could be longer depending on natural light, others shorter, he said.
By running on that schedule, Barr said he hopes to preserve the evening and early nighttime sky when people are still up and want a natural transition into the dark hours before they go to bed, without interference.
As for those early morning hours when the lights are on, by adding more lights and having greater intensity during that time, the duration should be shorter, he said.
Outside of that, Barr said he is working on obtaining water rights that would allow him to plant an orchard and other types of trees around the greenhouses that would serve as a light shield.
“I met with the neighbors who complained in person or over the phone to offer mitigation resolutions on their properties,” Barr wrote in an update to the commissioners after concerns were brought before the board last month.
Among those was an offer to buy blackout curtains or plant vegetation on their properties that could screen out the light.
“No one accepted these offers,” Barr said.
One of those neighbors, Kim Barta, wrote in a March 18 letter to the commissioners that it’s the early morning hours when the lights are brightest that are of most concern.
“The light trespass is impacting everyone in the immediate vicinity,” she wrote, adding it’s a traffic-safety issue for motorists at the nearby Dry Hollow Road intersection. It’s also impacting wildlife habits in the vicinity, she said.
“There is not one of us that have built our homes next to his greenhouse,” Barta wrote. “He built his greenhouse next to our homes.”
Barta asked that Spring Born consider light-shielding curtains, instead of offering to install them for the neighbors. She also asked that no lighting be allowed before 6 a.m., along with several other suggestions.
Barr said curtains would not work with this particular type of greenhouse operation.
County commissioners noted that the operation is not out of compliance with any of its permits, but asked that Barr continue to work on ways to lessen the impact on the neighbors.
Commissioner Mike Samson called Spring Born and other such greenhouse operations the “wave of the future” for year-round growing of agricultural produce but acknowledged Garfield County is a bit of a “test case” with the local facility.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.