Grower plans to expand

The owners of the nation's largest greenhouse are seeking the town's permission to grow even bigger.

Family-owned Metrolina Greenhouses Inc. is asking the town to rezone about 110 acres on Huntersville-Concord Road to allow construction of greenhouse buildings and expand by about 1.5million square feet, according to documents on file with the Huntersville Planning Department.

The Huntersville Board of Commissioners has scheduled a public hearing on the company's request for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Town Hall, 101 Huntersville-Concord Road.

The Huntersville Planning Board would next consider and make recommendations on the request at its Nov. 16 meeting. The request then is scheduled to go before the Huntersville Board of Commissioners to consider approval Dec. 20.

The property is immediately east of 16400 Huntersville-Concord Road and immediately west of the Skybrook North subdivision. Metrolina Greenhouses wants the acreage rezoned from residential to agricultural.

President Art Van Wingerden told the Observer last week that the company hopes to have grading complete by the end of 2011 and to start construction in either 2011 or 2012, depending on market conditions.

The expansion would add 35 jobs to Metrolina's 500 existing full-time jobs, Van Wingerden said.

Metrolina Greenhouses is the largest single-site heated greenhouse business in the U.S., according to the company's website. Four Concord Mills malls could fit inside, the company says. Metrolina also has about 30 acres of outdoor growing space. The company grows about 60 plant types in all.

Tom Van Wingerden , who died in December, founded the business in 1972.

Over the past 15 years, Metrolina has grown from 50 acres to 150 acres.

The company ships to big-box retailers, mass merchandisers, home improvement and grocery chains and other greenhouses in the area.

Its products typically are sold within a 400-mile radius. During its peak season, March through June, Metrolina ships about 100 trailer loads of products each day.