Some upset over greenhouse’s migrant worker housing

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It was standing room only at a Comstock Township board meeting Monday night, with people packing in to voice their opinions about migrant workers.      

Nothing on the meeting agenda dealt with the issue, but word recently got out that a local business plans to house dozens of migrant workers in Comstock Township. Starting next month, 34 workers will live in four houses that Wenke Greenhouses owns.

Lisa Wenke Ambrosio, who owns the greenhouse, says the business needs the workers.

“We’re very much struggling to have people come to work with the seasonal nature of the jobs that we do and the hours that we work,” she explained to 24 Hour News 8. “There’s just not a lot of people who want to come do these jobs anymore.”

But several neighbors were worried about the situation, many citing a flyer circulated over the weekend that referred to the housing situation as a “camp” and warning of safety, crime and increased traffic.

“Help stop the migrant bus from becoming the most common sight in our community,” the flyer reads in part. “Residents will have no control once this starts … This will have no benefit to our community.”

The origin of the flyer is unclear.

Comstock Township resident Julie Daniels, who was among those who opposed the housing, says she’s concerned that her property value will suffer, but her family is her main priority.

“The biggest concern for me? I’m a mom,” she said. “The safety of my kids as all of these migrant work camp houses are going to be housing all men. Males. No families. No women. No children. Just men for 10 months out of the year.”

“My biggest fear is just the fact that these gentlemen will be among our community on my street,” she continued. “I have a daughter who goes out to a barn and works with her horses. I don’t know if I can let her be out there by herself at this point.”

Daniels’ husband was elected to the township board in November and he has opposed allowing housing for migrant workers.

But Wenke Ambrosio assured people there was no reason for fear. She said all of the workers are in the country on visas for temporary agricultural workers.

“I think there’s some misperceptions about what the program is and what kind of people this brings. The people that are coming have been vetted,” she said. “They will have gone through background checks. Everything that they’re doing here will very much be under scrutiny to make sure that they follow the rules.”

She said she didn’t anticipate any problems.

In January, the greenhouse will apply to the board to build housing on 10 acres it owns.

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