Town holding public hearing on changes to Ag Protection Overlay District

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By Linda Smith Hancharick

— After imposing a three-month moratorium on applications to the town’s Agricultural Protection Overlay (APO) District in July, the Warwick Town Board is ready to hear the public’s comments on the proposed local law on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m.

The prime benefit of being part of the APO District is the ability to have a farm market on the premises.

The town created the overlay zone in 2002 with many successes, according to town Supervisor Michael Sweeton. The purpose was to protect and maintain farmland and to support farming, giving farmers more opportunities to thrive. This review was also to keep in line with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“The key here is to ensure we are consistent with our Comprehensive Plan,” Sweeton said when the board declared the moratorium. “That is critical because, if not, we could be challenged.”

Promoting agri-tourismThe new local law defines agri-tourism as “a set of activities that occurs when people link travel with the products, services and experiences of agriculture. Agri-tourism is conducted for the enjoyment or education of the public and primarily promotes the sale, marketing, production, harvesting or use of the products of the farm operation.”

Examples of agri-tourism included in the local law include farm stays or farm-cation experiences, hay rides, wine trails, farm tours and farm festivals.

The local law also adds special conditions for farm markets including:

• Twenty-five percent of the total amount of retail sale of the agricultural and farm products shall be grown, raised or produced on that farm;

• Processed foods, where the majority of the ingredients are grown on the farm, will be considered part of the 25 percent, including baked goods, eggs, dairy products, juice, preserves, syrups, wine and beer;

• The farm market may sell farm products grown or processed regionally within New York State as long as those products do not exceed 75 percent of the total annual retail sales of the market;

• A maximum of 25 percent of the total annual sales may be produced outside of the state of New York.

The law also allows for farm and harvest festivals depending on the size of the farm market. Markets greater than 4,000 square feet may sponsor up to 12 festivals each year.

No carnival rides are allowed and the festivals must be designed to provide agricultural marketing and promotional opportunities for the farm or the region’s agricultural producers.

Amplified sound may be used between noon and 9 p.m., a reduction from the current law that allows it until 11 p.m.

For farm markets less than 4,000 square feet in size, up to five festivals may be held each year with the same limitations listed for the larger markets.

Concern from residentsSome residents, though, are concerned for the rural areas of the town. Lori Scaffidi is one resident of Warwick who has issues with the law. She said she moved to this rural area to raise her family in a peaceful, quiet place. She has 18 acres and there is nothing by her right now.

“I can see my neighbors and we can’t hear a single one of them.”

She worries that won’t last.

“We moved here for the quiet and solitude. The noise issue on this revision is what set me off a bit,” said Scaffidi. “It’s disturbing to think that down the road, I won’t be able to sit in my backyard quietly.”

One of her concerns is that amplified music can be played from noon to 9 p.m. The current law allows the music until 11 p.m., but Scaffidi doesn’t see the reduction in time as enough.

“That’s all day,” she said. “We will lose the solitude.”

In her opinion, agri-tourism is about celebrating the products that come from the area’s farms and that does not have to include band and carnivals, she said.

Scaffidi’s area is not directly affected by this local law. But she fears it may be in the future.

“I’m in the middle of nowhere but so were the people on Little York Road at one time,” she said. “Now they are subject to the traffic and loud music. Now is the time to stand up to say enough is enough with the noise.”

EssentialsThe public hearing will be held on Thursday, Oct. 11, starting at 7 p.m. at the Warwick Town Hall, 132 Kings Highway.

This proposed local law amends chapter 164 of the town code and the zoning law governing agriculture and the APO District, clarifying the requirements for commercial solar energy systems and providing corrections to the zoning law.

The full law can be found on the town’s website,

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