Council approves CIP funding for greenhouse operation, gift store

WELLINGTON NORTH – Increasing demands on the township’s Community Improvement Program (CIP) may compel council to be more restrictive in distributing funds, says Mayor Andy Lennox.

Council approved the first two CIP applications of 2021 on Jan. 11.

One grant was a $2,200 contribution for façade improvements at Eclectica … the gift store in downtown Arthur.

Economic development officer Dale Small called the upgrades a “fairly standard” façade improvement project, which included new shingles and signage.

Total cost of the improvements is estimated at $4,406 and the applicant is eligible for 50 per cent funding under our Façade Improvement Program.

The second grant for up to $10,000 from various streams of the CIP program was allocated to Jessica Pfisterer, owner of The Pfisterer Farm located on Line 6.

Pfisterer intends to design and build a self-sustainable, passive, solar, four-season greenhouse capable of growing local produce year round.

“With minimal inputs and environmental impact this operation will work towards supporting the regional food security strategy for Guelph and Wellington County,” stated Small in a written report.

“Using innovative technology and solutions the greenhouse will be one of a kind, with the goal of local and international replication.”

The operation will feature over 2,000 square feet of growing space with an estimated production of 800 heads of leafy greens weekly, 900 pounds of tomatoes and 600 microgreen flats grown hydroponically per year.

“As part of their desire and commitment to transparency and community engagement, they also plan to offer workshops and tours of the greenhouse and their regenerative farm,” Small states in the report.

“Their goal is to become a sought-after tourism destination when visiting Wellington County – and more specifically, Wellington North.”

Small told council the greenhouse operation is a “pretty unique proposal,” for the CIP program.

“A couple years ago the program was extended to support agri-businesses,” Small explained.

“Not in terms of building barns and stuff like that, but where they have a retail business, or where they’re getting into the agri-tourism business or the agri-food business, then they qualify for funding.”

Councillor Steve McCabe said, “I think this is just a really unique opportunity for our municipality. I fully support something like this and I hope it’s the start of many more.”

However, Lennox questioned if providing $10,000 from the program to a single applicant would mean turning other businesses down later.

“It’s always a risk in terms of running out of funding,” said Small, noting the program’s entire $35,000 budget was allocated partway through 2020 and council agreed to provide an additional $35,000.

“And that would be the case again this year,” if the program runs out of money, Small explained.

A total of $35,000 has been budgeted for CIP grants in 2021.

“I see this program continuing to ramp up in terms of applications and I’m just concerned that we’re going to get to a point where were going to set some priorities around this,” said Lennox.

“I’m happy to support this recommendation, but I think we have to think about how we’re going to sort through this if it continues to grow as it has the last couple of years.”

Small said plans are in the works to “refresh” the program with the addition of criteria for energy efficiency-related projects. He suggested the overall application process could be revised to address the concerns raised by Lennox.

Council unanimously passed a resolution to accept Small’s report and approve the two grants.