Pavilion Township residents against housing for migrant workers at Wenke Greenhouses
KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Residents pack a zoning board meeting in Pavilion Township Thursday night, as a local greenhouse asks to be allowed to build migrant housing for its workers.
Wenke Greenhouses asked to have their property in Pavilion Township rezoned so they can add housing for their migrant workers.
The Pavilion Township Zoning Board meeting was packed as many came out to voice their opinions, and ask what it would mean for their own properties.
Wenke, like many farms across the country, relies on migrant workers. The greenhouse said having those workers close by and not having to transport them is critical to getting the job done.
The zoning board voted to make a recommendation to the Pavilion Township board to deny the request for housing.
Neighbors said they worry about what would be happening so close to their homes.
"We weren't really excited about the prospect of having two dozen strangers in our backyard. The way the greenhouses are situated, they are about nearly 20 of us whose backyards back right up to the greenhouse property,” said Pavilion Township resident, Sarah DeBoer.
Those at Wenke Greenhouse said they feel misunderstood and do not think local residents understand the need for migrant workers in farming. They are now looking at other options for housing their workers.
"My reaction is a little bit of disappointment. I think there's a lot of people who really don't understand the unemployment and the ability to hire people in this community and what we have to do to hire people,” said Lisa Wenke Ambrosi, with Wenke Greenhouse.
The full Pavilion Township board still has to vote on the issue. Their next meeting is September 11.