Four months after Tim Schartner began building a 1 million-square-foot greenhouse on his family’s landmark farm the town’s zoning inspector, Hal Morgan issued a cease-and-desist order last week after Schartner missed a deadline to present documentation showing why his Route 2 project was exempt from zoning review.
“This is a $60-million project that feels they are exempt, but there is a process for this,” Morgan told. Whether you are building a garage addition or a structure the size of the Warwick Mall, like Schartner’s, that will produce 42,000 pounds of tomatoes a day, “everybody has to go through a process,” said Morgan.
Schartner has argued that his 26-acre structure needs no initial town approval because local ordinances allow for agricultural greenhouses “by right.” Morgan, who has held the elected position as zoning inspector since 2004, begs to differ.
While the definition of a greenhouse “is not addressed as specifically as it might be” in local ordinances, there are plenty of references, he says, to what constitutes “structures.” And Schartner’s project is a structure that requires certain permitting, Morgan said.
At a public hearing before the Town Council last month, a lawyer on Schartner's side agreed that the project would eventually require town permits for water, electrical, and fire suppression systems, but those permit requests would be addressed in later construction phases, he said.
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