Schartner Farms told to halt work on greenhouse construction

EXETER, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island farm has been ordered to halt construction on a 26-acre greenhouse by zoning inspectors who said that the farm tried to bypass a zoning review.

Exeter inspector Hal Morgan said he issued a cease-and-desist order to Schartner Farms last week because the farm missed a deadline to present documents showing why it thinks the greenhouse project is exempt from a zoning review, The Providence Journal reported.

Owner Tim Schartner said that the 1-million square foot greenhouse does not need the town's approval to continue construction because Exeter's local ordinances allow for agricultural greenhouses to be built “by right.”

But Morgan said he disagrees and that local ordinances are clear on what constitutes a structure that requires permitting and this project falls under those definitions.

If Schartner violates the cease-and-desist order, he could face a daily fine of $500, Morgan told the newspaper.

In the meantime, Schartner said he has halted construction on the greenhouse because of coronavirus pandemic-related supply shortages.

Exeter town officials said the Schartner project will continue to be an issue for zoning and planning officials to solve.