This past Monday evening, the Lancaster Town Board held a public hearing on the Right to Farm Law it is intending to adopt in the near future.
It was presented to the public as a local law that will be established to maintain and preserve the rural traditions and character of the Town, to permit the continuation of agricultural practices, to protect the existence and ownership of farms, to encourage the initiation of farms and agribusinesses, and to promote new ways to resolve disputes concerning agricultural practices and farm operations.
In order to maintain a viable farming economy in Lancaster it is necessary to limit the circumstances under which farming may be deemed a nuisance and allow agricultural practices inherent to and necessary for the business of farming to proceed and be undertaken free of unreasonable and unwarranted interference or restriction.
Hans Mobius, Chairman of the Erie County Right to Farm committee informed the town board that Lancaster would be the 23rd municipality in Erie County to pass the Right to Farm bill. “We will probably be the only county in New York and possibly the nation to do so. We started in the year 2006 and have worked with other towns to get this approved. We hope you do so this evening.”
Supervisor Dino Fudoli interjected that this was merely a public hearing on the proposal and that there was no intent to pass the bill this evening.
Mobius declared that the board could possibly approve the bill this vey evening as they did in Grand Island where there was no objection to the proposal. “We appreciate if you consider doing that tonight, especially if there is no objection presented by the public.”
Fudoli declared that there was no resolution in place, but that there would be one based on public hearing comments. Town Attorney John Dudziak interjected that he was of like mind, holding off drafting a resolution until after the public made their comments.
Twelve residents spoke on proposed law, all in favor and support.
Lee Chowaniec addressed the board and stated he thought it appropriate that the board waited until after the public had their say before drafting a resolution. “In reading the drafted Right to Farm law draft I would have to ask what constitutes ‘farmland’. It does not state size of property.” An individual stated it was 5 acres. “Yet in the State Agriculture and Markets Law, Section 301 of Article 25AA, 7 acres is the number used. Will this law protect people who farm less than 5 acres?”
Councilman Ronald Ruffino interjected that the proposed law protects people that are currently farming. “For example, if a development moved next to a farm and people moving in started complaining about things that were being done (on the farm) under normal hours. If a development already existed and a party came in and wanted to farm, it does not protect them.”
Chowaniec: “I am just asking the board to take a hard look at what is being proposed, at some of the nuances. There is a distinction between working farms and non working farms. Where some farms may not have been worked for awhile, where adjacent subdivision developments take place, and then the farm becomes active and the subdivision residents complain. This is a god bill to pass. The farms were here first and are deserving of protection. At the same time consider all nuances and protect all farms.
Jack Dolman: Lancaster is but one of a few towns left that does not have a Right to Farm Law. It is about time. Farms produce valuable crops and are good for the environment.
Dolman neighbor: Reiterated what Dolman said, in particular on farmland that is no longer actively worked and where garbage litters the brush. “Lancaster has very few active farms but what it has promoted is people coming in from Clarence and other locales and renting land and running a clean operation; a positive.
Robert D.: “We have a large parcel of property in Lancaster, over 50 acres. I bought the house and some property, but I was not able to get 5 acres. Am I going to have a problem getting grandfathered in with what I have? We have two horses and I raise a couple of pigs a year. That’s all we do. Now, am I going to have issues, am I going to have people complaining when I eventually have a development built behind me?
Supervisor Fudoli related there were similar issues brought forward when he served on the county farmland bureau. “We did have certain cases where we did grandfather such exceptions in. I don’t know the technicalities or legal implications here, but we will look into it. There are guidelines that will be put in to protect smaller parcels; parcels that have been separated out from larger ones.”
Resident: “I was born on a farm so I have to ask who was here first, the farmers or the subdivisions. I support this bill.”
Donna Lukowski: “I was here a few meetings ago and spoke on my concern for my horses. I applaud the board for the work you have done and in trying to get this passed. I get my hay from the same people who are here this evening and farm. They need some form of protection. I have lived in my present home all my life and I am going to have $300,000 homes in my back yard in the near future. You know that someone from the new subdivision is going to complain. I want no hassles, just to come home and do my own thing, just like the rest of the farmers are saying here tonight. What some may see as non working farms, they are farms that have animal, and that’s their livelihood. I am in favor of this law.”
Cemetery Road resident: “Mr. Fudoli, we have a 60 acre farm that my husband still works. We also do not want to see development in our backyard. For many years people have knocked on our door wanting to stop it. The north-south corridor, they wanted to run that through it. A trail now runs along side of it – which is beautiful and which I walk. I would like to not see development, but do want to see a law that protects farms like mine that has been in the family for over 100 years. For a lot of people here tonight, this is their livelihood and legacy. Please consider to pass this law.”
Shaun B. “I moved to Lancaster because I like the community. I picked my house because of the back yard. There are no houses behind and that is the view I was looking for. I would like to see the full verbiage of the law. I believe there are pro and cons. No one wants to look at a raggedy field. It needs to be plowed under and farmed. We all need agriculture and I am in favor of this law.”
Resident (?): “The Right to Farm Law is not to stop development but to protect the people who are already there from being pestered for unjust reasons. Isn’t there a real estate clause in the law before the people purchase the property that the people have to be informed?”
Supervisor Fudoli: “That is correct. That is for protection for the farmers from people who constantly come before the town board complaining about certain things that were already in place.”
Resident (?): “This would help resolve problems before some people came before the board. There are some people who don’t like animals and would just complain for any reason. My neighbor complains about the noise when I run my tractor.”
Town Attorney John Dudziak: The law is being put in place to address nuisances. If people buy a house next door to a farm common sense would dictate you do due diligence to know what you are moving next to. It isn’t right for someone to move in and decry what has been taking place next to them for years.”
Councilman Ruffino: “I have had numerous conversations with the people who farm and we do not want to keep losing farms. We need the produce and the commerce farms provide. Certainly we have to also consider the jobs they provide, and many farms have been in existence for over 100 years. Some speak about not wanting development to come next to them. That is the one thing that the town does not control, that is, where development will go when developers meet all rules and regulations. So you can’t come to the town board to stop development and say it is in the town board’s power to stop development; it is not... But this law is to ensure when development does occur farmers will be protected against unjust nuisance charges.”
Jerry A.: “As a former resident of Ransom Road, my father and his father before him owned and farmed the property. A lot of people should know that it is part of our operation in making our living. Someone mentioned hogs and we probably had somewhere between 300-400 pig on the property. People would come and purchase produce and the children would love to see the animals. It still carries on a tradition and plays a very important part in the community. You should g on and approve this.”
John Phillips: “My parents and I have a small farm. We have cattle and pigs. Farms provide a useful service. Change is coming in with new developments and farms need protection.”
A farm supporter in the audience proffered that he had subdivisions all around him. “Do you know where they throw their garbage? On our property, that’s where.”
It should be noted that supporters were from diverse locations throughout the town.
To have heard that this law was being promoted throughout the county since 2006 and that Lancaster is just now considering it is disturbing – one of the last towns; 23rd out of 25.