A Kent firm well known for its floral foam is expanding its research and development center in Kent with a larger greenhouse.
Smithers Oasis on Marvin Street gained approval from the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals Monday to build a greenhouse 36 feet by 96 feet to serve its research and technology facility.
The business received a 74-foot variance from the 100-foot minimum side yard setback to build the new greenhouse on the southeast portion of its 12-acre property.
Jeff Malek, corporate technology engineer for Smithers Oasis, said the firm had outgrown its 25 feet by 40 feet greenhouse and considered moving the research and technology aspect of the Kent manufacuring plant to its location in South Carolina.
"Which is not desirable to us," Malek said. "We would prefer to keep it on the same premise as our existing greenhouse."
The firm, founded in 1954, developed water-absorbing foam for florists to use in packaging flowers, according to its website. The firm has two facilities in the U.S. and in Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa.
The zoning board considered granting a variance less than the 74 feet requested, but Malek said the firm wouldn't use the entire variance if approved.
Assistant Kent Law Director Eric Fink said whatever portion of the variance goes unused will be lost over time.
"It will be forfeited,” he said.
Zoning board member Paul Sellman said water and sewer lines running through other portions of the company's property made it difficult for them to build the new greenhouse anywhere else.
The zoning board voted unanimously to approve the variance request.
"The building is basically going to be a low-impact building," Sellman said. "It’s not like they’re putting a machine shop in there. If this helps keep Smithers in Kent, I think it’s a good move."