Councilman changes his mind about greenhouse

By on May 19, 2013

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Councilman Bob Lenz, who was among the unanimous vote to recommend Vertical Harvest to the Wyoming Business Council for a grant that would provide capital startup money for a three-story greenhouse in Jackson, has changed his mind. Lenz sent an email to WBC top brass, Dave Simonsen and Roger Bower, explaining his change of heart and urging them to vote down the proposal.

“I MADE A MISTAKE when I voted Yes for the Vertical Greenhouse,” Lenz wrote six times in the email. His main concern is the multi-level greenhouse would not be suitable for the disabled, especially the second floor, which Lenz called unsafe.

“I changed my mind the day after I voted for it,” Lenz told JH Weekly. “It looked to me like the whole second floor was a mass of mechanized machinery that could be dangerous to people with disabilities, and spreading the greenhouse out over three floors would require an unreasonable amount of supervision. And the hiring of the disabled was the key to getting free public land. Without it, I can’t imagine we would allow them to use free public land.”

Artist rendering of proposed vertical greenhouse to be built along south wall of the parking garage. (Courtesy Vertical Harvest)

Artist rendering of proposed vertical greenhouse to be built along south wall of the parking garage. (Courtesy Vertical Harvest)

The longest-serving councilman said he would feel much more comfortable with a single-story greenhouse. He also questioned the viability of a third floor dedicated exclusively to tomato growing – a crop he wasn’t sure would be practical in Jackson Hole.

Lenz’s reversal is the latest blow to Vertical Harvest planners on their way to a final WBC board vote on their grant application. Last month, WBC staff recommended against approval of the $1.5 million grant to Vertical Harvest. Bower cited the organizers’ lack of expertise in hydroponic farming. He was also concerned that the project would not meet state criteria by creating enough fulltime jobs.

The WBC board is scheduled to discuss the application May 23 at their regular meeting in Thermopolis.

Vertical Harvest organizers Nona Yehia and Penny McBride insist the project has a good chance in front of the WBC board despite the speed bumps along the way.

Yehia called Lenz’s email “disappointing” and “damaging” to the project.

McBride said, “We regret the position that Bob Lenz has taken at this time but are pleased with the continued support of the remainder of the town council.”

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