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No quick fix to shut off Mucci's lights

By Andy Ouriel • Jan 9, 2019 at 9:00 PM

HURON — There’s no apparent end in sight for the light problem caused by Mucci Farms.

Since about October, throughout several nights, light has radiated from the high-tech agricultural facility, located beside BGSU Firelands on Rye Beach Road. The yellow-orange hue illuminating night skies can be seen from miles away, appearing as if the sun is rising when it’s not.

In fact, when traveling west along U.S. 20, just after leaving the village of Monroeville, motorists can see the light in the northern horizon most of the way to Bellevue.

During Tuesday’s Huron city council meeting, elected officials acknowledged the problem, highlighted by a yellow-orange hue illuminating night skies almost on a daily basis in recent weeks. Many people said they can see the light from as far as 30 miles away.

After a unanimous affirmative vote, officials agreed to hire outside legal counsel. The attorney or firm should provide guidance to possibly eliminate light pollution issues, including what types of enforcement, fines and criminal action city council can legally take if this issue persists.

“Something needs to be done with this,” said councilman Brad Hartung, who’s also the government’s mayor.

But, legally, council can’t force Mucci Farms to shut off its lights today, tomorrow or anytime soon because of city procedure.

If a lawyer sides with Huron, and thus against Mucci Farms, then officials must host three separate hearings at a trio of upcoming council meetings, allowing people to express concerns on either side. Then the legislation goes through a final 30-day waiting period before becoming a law.

So when is the soonest Mucci could be forced to limit its lights?

If the legal opinion comes back before the next scheduled meeting, Jan. 22, and based on Huron’s current council schedule, a law wouldn’t take effect until late March — and that’s if officials approve this measure each and every time.

The conclusion didn’t really satisfy about 50 people in attendance, many of whom sought immediate action.

Those speaking during the meeting raised issues about the light disturbing sleeping patterns, disrupting wildlife and playing a factor in declining property values. They also expressed extreme dissatisfaction toward city officials about a lack of transparency in notifying them about Mucci Farms’ arrival in 2016 and its overall operations, which began in 2017.

Among those voicing their opinions included city resident Shaun Bickley, who summarized what many felt about the situation.

“These things can be easily addressed from where they are coming from,” Bickley said. “This has been going on and on and on. We want to see some progress. We don’t want it to fall on deaf ears. The blinds are only pulled back 20 percent. We get this much light from just 20 percent. All of these people that live within a mile of the plant, I have talked to some of them. Their houses and land have been devalued. Who is going to buy something right there that is that bright all night and all day? Enough is enough. Make this happen. Get to those people. Get whatever it takes. Our town deserves a quiet night’s sleep.”

While the issue somewhat died down in past weeks, it resurfaced in recent days. On the “You know you're from Huron if…” Facebook page, dozens of people have posted comments related to their frustrations and concerns about this issue.

Among them: “It has been shown, over time, light pollution definitely affects the beautiful scenery, all the nature parks and the amazing wildlife that has collected in this area. That's really what this should be about,” Laura Russell Reinbolt posted.

Added Stacey Starr Landoll: “I would be very disturbed by it. It’s awful in pictures.”

Huron city manager Andy White recently spoke with Mucci Farms CEO Bert Mucci about implementing systems “that would abate the whole situation.”

 

Putting a spotlight on Mucci Farms’ light problem

On and off since about October, and, recently, every single night these past couple of weeks, light has radiated from Mucci Farms, a high-tech agricultural facility, located beside BGSU Firelands on Rye Beach Road.

To prevent light pollution, Mucci Farms designed and installed blackout curtains. Those curtains aim to trap light illuminated inside the greenhouse and shield outside areas from getting exposed.

So why is light seemingly escaping from the facility?

“The curtains are fully installed and deployed, however, we do need to release the immense amount of heat emitted from the lights on a daily basis,” company spokesman Ajit Saxena said. “Light can be seen when we are venting the farm.”

Huron’s Mucci Farms — the company’s first U.S. base outside of Canada — is equipped to brighten the entire greenhouse, which provides its non-GMO tomatoes with needed nutrients.

Since there’s less daylight in the winter months, generally defined by Mucci as a time period between November and March, workers use artificial light to ensure crops can properly grow.

The problem is, however, it’s still undergoing an infancy stage, and employees continue to work out some kinks. Mucci began to plant crops at its Huron base this past spring and hasn’t yet gone through a full winter season.

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