CHATHAM, ONT. -- In an effort to protect the dark night sky and quality of life for rural residents, Chatham-Kent council has requested a report on greenhouse light emissions.

Ward One councillor Melissa Harrigan made the motion Monday evening. 

“To be totally honest there is not currently any major issue happening in Chatham-Kent in regards to light pollution,” Harrigan says.

Instead, the approach is proactive, intended to include residents and industry stakeholders to “get ahead” of any potential problems.

“The last thing I would ever want is to have a bylaw that really enforces and protects our night sky, but is not something that is feasible for the agricultural sector and just results in random fines being given,” she says. “That doesn’t achieve the goal.”

Harrigan hopes staff will be able to provide recommendations to address potential extreme glow emitting from 24/7 greenhouse operations in Chatham-Kent, similar to those in Essex County.

She also requested a summary of engagement with industry stakeholders, residents and neighbouring communities in relation to greenhouse regulations.

Several residents and business owners in the Wheatley area brought the issue to her attention. 

The problem has been seen as far away as Detroit, and other municipalities including Leamington and Kingsville, have implemented bylaws to help curb the issue.

“I felt now was the right time to have these conversations,” Harrington says.

President of Chatham-Kent Association of Realtors, Laura Tourangeau tells CTV News she’s pleased council is taking this approach, noting there has been significant out-of-town real estate interest as of late.

“It’s excellent that they’re being proactive in that,” she says. “We’ve had some feedback just from chatting with clients or even friends.”

Tourangeau says the night time glow from neighbouring municipalities is noticeable, adding it should be disclosed to potential buyers who might not be familiar with the night sky.

“If somebody is moving here to have some space, especially coming from a larger city expecting a dark night sky and not knowing about it, it would definitely be an issue,” she says.

South Kent councillor Trevor Thompson supported Harrigan’s motion saying a dark sky is often a selling point for rural residents.

“Sometimes somebody will bring up hey why don’t we get streetlights, the answer always comes back a resounding 'no, we don’t want them,'” he says. “We like the dark. It’s part of the reason we live out here is for the dark at night and the stars and all that sort of idyllic sense you get growing up in a rural community, in the country.”

Thompson compares the sight to that of a burning barn that never stops, and believes the timing is right since greenhouse development is not as advanced as in other regions, yet.

“It just goes back to quality of life,” he says. “It seems like such a small thing but it really isn’t.”

The report is expected back to Chatham-Kent council by April 2021.