By Benjamin Joe
This past Monday, the manager of the Wheatfield Gardens greenhouses, Paal Eflstrum, came in front of the Town Board of Wheatfield to update the board members on some of the changes he had made on the border – as documented in a letter to the town – with the Timberlakes subdivision, and asked the board for further instructions on how to be “good neighbors.”
Recently, the issue in contention was the amount of light shining into the windows of the homes of residents in the Timberlake subdivision. While no resident of Timberlakes addressed the board that night, Councilman Larry Helwig noted he’d heard complaints.
“You mentioned lights, some of the residents had called me and said there were purple lights in the sky,” he said. “I heard you were going to put timers on some of the lights; so it wouldn’t be done so much during darkness hours. It’s been four months and I’m still hearing that sometimes the lights aren’t off when it’s dark.”
“Unfortunately, we’re very far north here,” Eflstrum said. “In order to get what’s called ‘the daily light integral,’ an amount of photons that hit different plants so they can grow, so we can provide food consistently, we need to extend the daylight and add supplement to the natural sunlight that we get.“
“It’s really hard with these short days and really cloudy days to get the amount of light needed for the plants,” he said. “What we’ve done is turned down the intensity of the lights – and you’re not seeing direct light. You’re seeing reflected light. We’ve eliminated the direct light by putting a solid wall on the north side, so, none of that light is escaping into the neighbors’ property, but if there’s a low cloud, if it’s snowing, that light is just reflecting off of that.”
Eflstrum said in the months from November to February, his plants need more than what direct sunlight can give them during the day. He is looking into stopping any “glow” caused by the reflected light and thereby making both his bottom line and the neighbors’ way of life prosper.
“What we have on the top of our greenhouse is a ‘shade curtain,’ which is primarily used on really hot, sunny days to shade the ground, somewhat,” Eflstrum said. “We could decrease the amount of reflective light that comes out.”
“We’re currently meeting with all these contractors,” he continued. “We’re trying to figure out a solution. We’re aware of it, and this is modern farming.”
“It’s good for us to know, because the residents call in,” Helwig said, explaining that he didn’t want to spread the wrong information.
“We just need that, on short days, to fill our orders,” Eflstrum said. “We supply Buffalo and county schools with their fresh, leafy greens. We need that additional light just to keep up production.
“We’re trying the best we can. … We shut the lights off at 7 p.m. and then they come on really early in the morning, like 4 a.m. in the morning, and most people would be asleep.”
Eflstrum noted there are also few spotlights, which need to stay on.
“They might shine over there, too, but I have to keep those on. We have a power plant operating there, too. It’s running 24/7,” he finished.
“Paal, thank you, and appreciate the letter; more information in it that I’d like to see, and we’re going to review this with (Building Inspector) Mike Klock and (Town Attorney) Matt (Brooks),” Supervisor Don MacSwan said. “We’re going to respond to it and hopefully work something out, and I appreciate your efforts and I want you to stay in Wheatfield, too.”
But that was not all. A latecomer to the meeting, Jenette Miller, an advocate for farmer’s rights and especially farmers with hemp crops, also addressed the board.
“I understand that it’s artificial light,” she said. “And I haven’t had time to see if there’s actually an ordinance in this town that protects against UV light coming off of buildings. It’s my understanding is there are not any towns in this area that has such an ordinance, but I can look more into that. If any of you have any questions or concerns, I’m very happy that Wheatfield wants to work with hemp is fantastic. … We can be reached through the Niagara County Farm Bureau.”
Assessor talks about STAR Program
Kelli Coughlin, Town of Wheatfield Assessor wanted to correct misinformation about the STAR program that had been spreading in the community.
“We’ve gotten numerous calls on this,” she said. “It all took effect last year. There’s nothing (wrong). If you signed up and you received the enhanced STAR last year or have been receiving it, you have all the proper forms in, to be able to make sure it was all done last year.”
The STAR program is for homeowners with income less than $250,000 who are exempt from paying school taxes. Last year, some of the rules had changed, including an income verification check for seniors receiving the STAR exemptions, even if they don’t file taxes. However, Coughlin said any seniors who had the STAR exemptions last year would not need to have their income verified again.
“I’m the type of assessor that if the state gives me a list of people that I have to remove the exemption, I’m going to call you and ask you why, like what your income is, so that I can talk to the state,” Coughlin said. “I will fight to keep that exemption on for you. I won’t just take it away because the state tells me to.”
Preparedness Meeting Set
Mike Zarbo, director of the department of emergency services, also had some announcements that were read into the record.
“March 13, we’re doing a 10 a.m. with the Wheatfield seniors, a presentation specifically designed for seniors, how they can prepare themselves and what they can do during a disaster,” he said. “It’s going to be done in conjunction to one of their regular meetings.”
Zarbo also announced a replay of a popular presentation called the Citizen Preparedness Presentation to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2. The event will include free emergency preparedness kits to those who pre-register (one kit per family).
“We are going to do this continually, every four months we’ll be doing another one,” he said. “I also know there’s one at Wendelville Fire Station, (6 p.m. Wednesday) April 22, so people who can’t make ours, they can make that.”
Other events include 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 – “An evening with the Constables” – where there will be an explanation of the constables’ legal responsibilities and services for the residents of the Town of Wheatfield.