[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Athens as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 11-5-2009 by L.L. No. 2-2009]
The Town of Athens, County of Greene, hereby recognizes that farming is an essential enterprise and an important industry which enhances the economic base, natural environment and quality of life in the Town of Athens. The Town hereby also declares that its policy is to promote effective communication between farm and nonfarm neighbors, greater consideration by each of the other's needs and a shared understanding of the value of agricultural enterprises to the Town of Athens.
Chapter 797 of the Laws of 1992 of the State of New York provides the important foundation for achieving right-to-farm protection. It is the general purpose and intent of this article to maintain and preserve the rural traditions and character of the Town, to permit the continuation of agricultural practices, to protect the existence and operation of farms, to encourage the initiation and expansion 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 the Town of Athens, it is necessary to limit the circumstances under which farming may be deemed to be a nuisance and to 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.
The Town of Athens incorporates herein for the purposes of this article the definitions found in Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law.
In addition to those definitions found in Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law, the following definitions are also applicable for the purposes of this article:
- AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES
- Farm operations, as defined in Subdivision 11 of Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law. Examples of such practices include, but are not limited to, operation of farm equipment, including crop dusting, proper use of agricultural chemicals and other crop production methods, including noise makers and burning of agricultural materials, and construction and use of farm structures.
- AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
- Those products, as defined in Subdivision 2 of Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law, including but not limited to:
- (1) Field crops, including corn, wheat, rye, barley, hay, potatoes and dry beans.
- (2) Fruits, including apples, peaches, grapes, cherries and berries.
- (3) Vegetables, including tomatoes, snap beans, cabbage, carrots, beets and onions.
- (4) Horticultural specialties, including nursery stock, ornamental shrubs, ornamental trees and flowers.
- (5) Livestock and livestock products, including cattle, sheep, hogs, goats, horses, poultry, ratites, such as ostriches, emus, rheas and kiwis, farmed deer, farmed buffalo, fur-bearing animals, milk and milk products, eggs and furs.
- (6) Maple sap and products.
- (7) Christmas trees derived from a managed Christmas tree operation, whether dug for transplanting or cut from the stump.
- (8) Aquaculture products, including fish, fish products, water plants and shellfish.
- (9) Woody biomass, which means short rotation woody crops raised for bioenergy.
- (10) Farm woodland includes land used for production and sale of woodland products, including but not limited to logs, lumber, posts and firewood.
- (11) Race horses and horses kept at commercial horse boarding operations.
- (12) Vineyards and vineyard products.
- (13) Apiaries and apiary products.
- Any person, organization, entity, association, partnership, limited-liability company, corporation or other entity engaged in land use in agricultural production, as defined in Subdivision 4 of Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law, or engaged in the business of agriculture, whether for profit or otherwise, including the cultivation of land, the raising of agricultural products or the raising of livestock.
- Land used in agricultural production, as defined in Subdivision 4 of Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law.
The Town Board of the Town of Athens hereby expresses and acknowledges its support of Section 308 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law, which added a new section of the State Agriculture and Markets Law establishing for the first time a statutory right to farm. It addresses sound agricultural management practices in an attempt to limit the commencement of private nuisance suits against farmers. The state right-to-farm law provides that an agricultural practice shall not constitute a public or private nuisance so long as it constitutes a sound agricultural practice.
Farmers, as well as those employed, retained, or otherwise authorized to act on behalf of farms, may lawfully engage in agricultural practices within the Town at all such times and all such locations as are reasonably necessary to conduct the business of agriculture. For any agricultural practice, in determining the reasonableness of the time, place and methodology of such practice, due weight and consideration shall be given to both traditional customs and procedures in the farming industry as well as to advances resulting from increased knowledge and improved technologies.
Agricultural practices conducted on farmland shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if such agricultural practices are:
Reasonable and necessary to the particular farm or farm operation;
Conducted in a manner which is not negligent or reckless;
Conducted in conformity with generally accepted and sound agricultural practices;
Conducted in conformity with all local, state and federal laws and regulations;
Conducted in a manner which does not constitute a threat to public health or safety or cause injury to health or safety of any person; and
Conducted in a manner which does not reasonably obstruct the free passage or use of navigable waters or public roadways.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit an aggrieved party from recovering from damages for bodily injury or wrongful death due to a failure to follow sound agricultural practices, as outlined in this section.
In order to promote harmony between farmers and their neighbors, the Town requires land holders and/or their agents and assigns to comply with Section 301 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law and provide notice to prospective purchasers and occupants as follows: "It is the policy of this state and this community to conserve, protect and encourage the development and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food and other products and also for its natural and ecological value. This notice is to inform prospective residents that the property they are about to acquire lies partially or wholly within an agricultural district and that farming activities occur within the district. Such farming activities may include, but not be limited to, activities that cause noise, dust and odors." This notice shall be provided to prospective purchasers of property within an agricultural district or of property with boundaries within 500 feet of a farm operation located in an agricultural district.
A copy of this notice shall be included by the seller or seller's agent as an addendum to the purchase and sale contract at the time an offer to purchase is made.
Should any controversy arise regarding any inconveniences or discomfort occasioned by agricultural operations on property within the Town of Athens which cannot be settled by direct negotiations between the parties involved, either party may submit the controversy to a dispute resolution committee, as set forth below, in an attempt to resolve the matter prior to the filing of any court action and prior to a request for determination by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets about whether the practice in question is sound pursuant to Section 308 of Article 25AA of the State Agriculture and Markets Law.
In furtherance thereof, the Town Board of the Town of Athens is hereby authorized by this article to establish a dispute resolution committee within 30 days of receipt of the controversy. A three-member dispute resolution committee shall be appointed by the Town Board, including one representative from the Town Board, one person from a community dispute resolution center such as Common Ground Mediation or FarmNet, and one farmer from the community.
Any controversy between the parties, which they choose to submit, shall be submitted within 30 days of the last date of occurrence of the particular activity giving rise to the controversy or the date the party became aware of the occurrence.
The effectiveness of the dispute resolution committee as a forum for the resolution of disputes is dependent upon full discussion and complete presentation of all pertinent misunderstandings. The parties are encouraged to cooperate in the exchange of pertinent information concerning the controversy.
Once formed, the dispute resolution committee may investigate the facts of the controversy but must, within 60 days of receipt of the controversy and establishment of the committee, hold a meeting at a mutually agreed upon place and time to consider the merits of the matter and, within five days of the meeting, render a written decision to the parties. At the time of the meeting, both parties shall have an opportunity to present what each considers to be pertinent facts. No party bringing a complaint to the dispute resolution committee for settlement or resolution may be represented by counsel unless the opposing party is also represented by counsel. The time limits provided in this subsection for action by the dispute resolution committee may be extended upon the written stipulation of all parties in the dispute.
Records of the dispute resolution committee shall be maintained by the Town of Athens.
Any reasonable costs associated with the function of the committee process shall be borne by the participants.