BERLIN — North Country Growers has exercised its option with the city and purchased the 170-acre property off the East Milan Road where the company hopes to build two commercial greenhouses.

The company closed on the purchase by the Dec. 30, 2020, deadline required under its sales and purchase agreement with the city. The deed was registered with the Coos County Registry of Deeds last Tuesday. The Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority and NCG had agreed on a $645,000 purchase price with $35,000 put down as a deposit when the option was signed in September 2020.

“I think it’s an important milestone,” said NCG President Dr. Richard Rosen.

Rosen said NCG wants “to start construction as soon as possible” but said COVID-19 has complicated the process because some of the equipment and expertise needed for the project comes from Europe. He said the weather is also a factor in when the project can get started.

NCG has been working on the project since 2017 and went through nine previous purchase and sales agreements with the city before closing last month.

Rosen said persistence is the most important component when doing a project this size. He stressed that NGC would not have purchased the land if it was not serious about the project and confident of its ability to see it through.

“We’re excited about it,” said BIDPA Chair Michael Caron. “It will be great for our community.”

The parcel of land is part of a larger piece 215-acre piece BIDPA purchased in 2015 for future industrial development.

The Massachusetts-based NCG is proposing to construct two 10-acre hydroponic greenhouses that would produce 15 million heads of lettuce and 8 million pounds of tomatoes annually and employ about 80 people. A generation plant would tap into the natural gas pipeline, producing an estimated 8.8 megawatts of electrical power primarily to be used by the facility. The greenhouses would serve the New England wholesale markets and supermarkets.

The state Legislature approved legislation allowing NCG to negotiate a 20-year tax agreement with the city. The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement allows the developer to phase in the greenhouses and provides for annual payments that are lower in the earlier years as the facility is built and then increase to $875,000.

North Country Growers has received conditional approval from the Berlin planning board and Rosen said the rest of the needed permits are in place.

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