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Proposed Lancaster Right to Farm Law language questioned
By Lee Chowaniec
Apr 17, 2012, 08:08
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At the April 2nd meeting, the Lancaster Town Board held a public hearing on the Right to Farm Law, a law it intends 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.

Although Hans Mobius, Chairman of the Erie County Right to Farm committee requested the Lancaster town board to approve the farm bill that 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. 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 of.

Writer addresses board

At the public hearing, I had commended the board for delaying passing the bill until the board heard the public comments and then took a hard look at the bill before approving it. As the board has not approved this proposal yet, it is fitting that the following comments be made because some confusion and misinterpretation on the language of the proposed bill has taken place.

As stated at the public hearing, I understand and support the Right to Farm bill and its intent to encourage and protect farming in Lancaster against unreasonable and unwarranted interference or restriction and to promote new ways to resolve disputes concerning agricultural practices and farm operations. That said, there is language in this bill that is different from the State Agriculture and Markets Law upon which this bill is established.

Farmland in the Lancaster proposed bill is defined as land used in agricultural production as defined in subdivision four of Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law. Whereas the state law declares seven acres of land defines farmland, Lancaster town code defines farmland as 5 acres or more. The point is that this law is being considered and approved for Agriculture-Residential zoned lands five or more acres in size and has nothing to do with farming or raising livestock on parcels of lands of less size.

The board should also take notice of the language used under the definition of agricultural products as defined in Section 301(2) of Article 25AA of the State and Agriculture and Markets Law and listed in subdivision (h).

It states in the proposed Lancaster bill that ĎAgricultural Products do not include, and this law does not extend, to:

1) Livestock and livestock products, including cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, poultry, farmed deer, farmed Buffalo, fur bearing animals milk, eggs and fir, and

2) Aquaculture products, including fish, fish products, water plants and shellfish.í

In the State and Agriculture and Markets Law such products are included and thereby offer farmer protection against complaints.

At this point I asked Town Attorney John Dudziak whether the Lancaster proposal contained a typo error and/or whether the language would be changed to agree with state law language. Mr. Dudziak stated that he was at a disadvantage as he did not have a copy of the Right to Farm Law proposal before him and could not comment. When I offered to let him see the copy I had, and which was the same as the one posted on the town web site Monday morning, Supervisor Dino Fudoli interjected that as it was councilmember Ron Ruffino who had taken some of this on and was missing from the meeting, it was best they discuss the matter with him.

I want to bring this forward because there were people at the public hearing who assumed the bill covered livestock and supported the bill. Miss Donna Lukowski was one of them and thanked the board for approving this bill which would protect her from losing her horses. Sure she was told she had been grandfathered years ago and not to worry about losing her horses, but where does that appear in writing?

Farmers who spoke at the public hearing on their having livestock and the odors emitted would not have protection under this law as it is now written. They believed they were covered with livestock as well. That is disturbing!

Lancaster codes protect residents living in residential zoned areas

On the other hand, this bill gives a false sense to others who believe they can raise livestock on property less than five acres in size; property not zoned A-R. They read of farming on small lots in the city, compost piles and the raising of chickens and other animals in the city and other municipalities and think all this is permissible in Lancaster, or should be.

These people have not read the Lancaster code book where it clearly states:

Farming can take place only in an A-R zoned district

Raising of livestock, poultry and bees of not less than 5 acres, provided that:

1) All such activities shall be conducted in an enclosure, and that fences or other enclosures provided shall keep the livestock, poultry or bees 15 feet from the lot line,

2) Any structures, pens or runways for the housing thereof shall be not less than 100 feet from any lot line, and

3) Further, no manure or other odor or dust-producing substance shall be stored within 100 feet of any lot line.

There are a lot of misconceptions that came along with this bill proposal. Does this law also address whether a five acre piece of property in an A-R zoned district that had not been farmed in the past now decides to farm. Does this law cover this change? Council member Donna Stempniak declared there were misconceptions out there. She voiced that it was her opinion that this law pertained to the farms in existence, not new farms. She also remarked that her sister-in-law thought the law meant that she could now raise chickens in her backyard.

I am for this law 100%. At the same time, I donít want chickens next door to me. I donít want to see feces on the ground, feed spread over the ground and the property becoming harborage for rodents. The town likewise voices concerns about doing the right thing to keep rodents out of town. This law was not meant for people to take the position that it affects their right as a property owner living in a residential area to raise livestock; gardening yes.

Equal protection under the law, and thatís what present Town of Lancaster codes provide.

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