Housing for migrant farm workers has been a bit of a concern of late for farmers, and Westmoreland County’s farmers are no exception. Back in 2005, Eagle Tree Farm, which is located over in the Leedstown area, got the approval to construct a quartet of duplex dwellings to house some of their farm workers. Now, presumably due to an influx of workers, the property owners were looking to construct more dwellings.
What has brought them back to the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors on Monday night last week is a request for the board’s approval of a special exception permit that would allow them to construct two more duplexes, as well as have two more approved for future development.
According to Planning Commission Director Beth McDowell and the documents provided to the board, each unit in these duplexes has two bedrooms, intended for three occupants each. That comes out to 6 people per unit, 12 per duplex, and ultimately for 48 people with the entire development.
The area these would be built on is quite flat, as the property is primarily farm fields, though it does drop down into the Peedee Swamp, which cuts the lot in two.
“We believe that this application has merit,” McDowell stated in her staff report to the board. “The ability to provide adequate housing for temporary or migrant farm workers is an ongoing concern for local farmers, as well as those migrant workers. This site’s location on the interior of the applicant’s farm acreage may help to alleviate any concerns from the surrounding community.”
One of the property owners was also at the meeting to answer any questions the board might have, though he also first pointed out that these were just like the previous batch of dwellings that had been approved fifteen years ago, and those have not caused any problems.
Since the property is zoned as agricultural, this batch of duplexes, like any type of multi-family housing, requires approval for a special exception from the supervisors, and had already gained the approval of the Planning Commission. Back in 2004, the board had approved the farm’s first batch of duplex dwellings as well. Among the recommendations that the Planning Commission gave was that all outside storage, waste disposal and recycling facilities would be screened from view by the right kind of fencing, structures or landscaping.
Landscape buffering consisting of two rows of evergreen trees planted fifteen feet on center would also be provided along the southeast and southwest edge of the project area.
As this was a public hearing, the citizens of the county were asked to speak for or against. Larry Hinson, a resident of the district that the construction would take place in, hopped up in an instant to voice support for the project.
“This farm has been a great asset to Westmoreland County,” he stated to the board. “This is spot-on, and we need everything we can get here in Westmoreland County.”
Approval of the exception and the conditions from the Planning Commission was quick and unanimous after the public comment portion came to a close, with Chairman Darryl Fisher giving his well wishes to the property owners and hope for their continued success.