Kennett Township officials approve study to examine viability of indoor agriculture

KENNETT TOWNSHIP>>A new study may help verify Kennett Township officials’ belief that the area could be a future mecca for indoor agriculture.

The supervisors voted unanimously this week to approve a feasibility study to gather information on the area’s potential to attract businesses that want to grow various sorts of crops indoors.

Mushrooms are a prime example of a currently flourishing form of indoor agriculture. But Michael Guttman, the township’s grants program and environmental sustainability director, thinks the infrastructure already in place for mushrooms could be used for other crops, attracting new entrepreneurs into the area.

Township officials have already met with university staff and others interested in promoting indoor agriculture, possibly by creating an organization that would be a clearinghouse of information and potentially offer other types of support.

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But first, the supervisors said, they need to do a study to see if the idea has as much potential as they hope. Scudder Stevens, chair of the board of supervisors, said they had been investigating the indoor-agriculture concept for a year, and he felt they were justified in getting more information.

“It seems to me we should be continuing on on this journey,” Stevens said.

Township Manager Lisa Moore said the township had a proposal from a firm to do the study for $13,383. The supervisors voted unanimously to go forward, and Moore said the township would seek contributors from other interested parties to potentially help defray the study costs.

But the supervisors were less than unanimously supportive of a proposal to apply for a $250,000 grant to pay for a community-based land stewardship program. The program’s goal would have been to broadly identify the natural resources in the township, including protected areas, and provide guidance on how to continue to protect and manage them in the future.

Because the grant would involve an $85,000 match from the township, Supervisor Whitney Hoffman questioned exactly what level of specific guidance it would provide, what means the township had either to urge or require those practices, and how much cooperation the township could expect from private landowners and homeowners’ associations.

After a period of discussion, the supervisors voted, with Stevens voting to approve while Hoffman and Richard Leff voted against the grant request. But discussion on the idea continued, and at one point Leff suggested they apply for a smaller grant amount that would fund a management plan for just the township-controlled areas.

Moore said the township could apply for $152,000, with a similar ratio of matching funds that would cost the township less. She said they could reconsider the scope of the plan before next year’s granting cycle deadlines, and assess how much interest and potential cooperation they could expect from private landowners.

Sinclair Springs

A vote on final plan approval for the Sinclair Springs subdivision, a 78-townhouse project on a 20-acre tract on Hillendale Road, was put off until next month after the developers asked for an extension.

Several attendees asked about the lighting at the development, citing concerns about the effect on neighbors and nocturnally active animals. The developers said they would be willing to bring their lighting consultant to the supervisors’ next meeting on June 7 to discuss lighting options in more detail with the attendees.

Police Department Accreditation

The supervisors unanimously approved a request from Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt to seek accreditation for the police force. He said the process involved working with the accreditation agency to examine the force’s practices, and would help keep its standards high. The minority of police forces that sought and acquired accreditation paid lower insurance fees, Nolt said.

The supervisors unanimously approved the request.