The construction of two housing complexes on NatureFresh Farms property in Delta for the company’s foreign workers was approved Wednesday by the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
The 5-0 vote, which followed an executive session, was attended by a dozen village residents and several village administrators. The zoning board approved the housing project with five stipulations:
• Three residences currently housing the foreign workers on NatureFresh property will be razed once the housing complexes are completed. Completion of the first complex is expected this year, the second by or before 2021.
• A single consolidated drive entrance will serve the complexes. Currently, there are several access points.
• A combination of mounding, shrubbery, and fencing will be placed to obscure the visual effects of the housing complexes.
• The Village of Delta will receive a certificate of required inspections and approvals once the project is completed.
• All areas surrounding the housing complexes will be maintained and kept tidy in accordance with the expectations of any residence within the village. Failure to do so could result in zoning violations.
• Changes to any and all parts of the complexes’ use or ownership will require modification to the permit and a public hearing.
Additionally, NatureFresh will discontinue leasing a house on County Road 7-2 in York Township where several of the foreign workers live. On-site company housing for foreign workers was suggested by village administrators after they received numerous complaints and admissions of fear from the neighbors of those living in the rental property.
He said because the public hearing portion of the housing project had closed, the final vote was not greeted with disapproval by opposing residents in attendance.
“They weren’t given an opportunity to object,” Peebles said. “There was no fanfare, no hoopla, no yelling or screaming.”
He said he wasn’t surprised by the appeals board’s unanimous vote, despite the strenuous objections the members heard from residents during a contentious Feb. 7 public hearing on the housing complexes. They included concerns about whether the foreign workers pay local taxes and about their potential for bad behavior, drug use, and not contributing to the area economy.
“What this board was capable of doing was separating the rhetoric from the facts pertaining to zoning,” Peebles added. “A lot of the argument wasn’t relevant to the actual zoning circumstance.”
Currently, NatureFresh employs 55 workers from Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras under a U.S. Government H-2A visa. The two dormitory-style housing complexes, estimated to cost $1-$1.25 million each, and paid for entirely by NatureFresh, will be able to hold about 175 foreign workers.
Delta Mayor Dan Miller said the housing complexes will be good for the community. “I think the zoning board looked at the facts. It’s good for jobs in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, and it’s good for Fulton County,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.