[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of County Commissioners of Charles County 8-1-2000 by Ord. No. 00-60. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Right to farm — See Ch. 100.
It is the declared policy of Charles County to preserve, protect and encourage the cultivation of its agricultural land for the production of food and other agricultural products. It is the purpose of this chapter to reduce the loss of County agricultural resources by limiting the circumstances under which agricultural and forestry operations may be deemed to constitute a nuisance, trespass or other interference with the reasonable use and enjoyment of adjacent land, including but not limited to smoke, odors, dust, noise, chemicals or vibration, provided that nothing in this chapter shall in any way restrict or impede the authority of the state and of the County to protect public health, safety and welfare.
It is in the public's general interest to promote a clearer understanding between agricultural, forestry operations (including raising and or harvesting of trees) and nonagricultural residential neighbors concerning the normal inconveniences of agricultural operations which follow generally accepted agricultural and forestry practices and do not danger public health or safety.
This chapter is not intended to and shall not be construed in any way as modifying or abridging local, state or federal laws relating to health, safety, zoning, licensing requirements, environmental standards (including those standards which relate to air and water quality) and the like.
An additional purpose of this chapter is to promote a good neighbor policy by advising purchasers and users of property adjacent to or near agricultural or forestry operations of the inherent potential problems associated with such purchase or use. These potential problems include, but are not limited to, noise, odors, dust, chemicals, smoke, vibration (factors or items that are a direct result of mechanical, human or animal activities that are associated with agriculture and forestry production) and hours of operation that may accompany agricultural operations throughout the year. It is intended that a mandatory disclosure statement be made available so that purchasers and users of real property will better understand the impact of living near agricultural or forestry operations and be prepared to accept attendant conditions as the natural result of living in or near rural areas.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- A GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY
- Pertains to those normal activities associated with agricultural or forestry production that are performed during various times of the year. The operator, owner or is/her designee needs to perform any normal agricultural or forestry activities in a manner that shows common courtesy and will have minimal impact on the surrounding property owners. The daily activities shall be performed in a manner that will have minimal impact on the environment as well as human health.
- AGRICULTURAL LAND
- All real property within the boundaries of Charles County that is:
- A. Lying in the Agricultural or Rural Conservation District; or
- B. Carried on the tax rolls of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation as agricultural, with the exception of the agricultural assessed land with planned unit development (PUD) zoning; or
- C. All other land that has been used as an agricultural or forestry (raising and harvesting trees on site as an agricultural product with the use of sound forest management practices) operation continuously for one year (single growing season).
- AGRICULTURAL OPERATION
- Includes, but is not limited to, all matters set forth in the definition of "agricultural operation" in § 5-403, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Annotated Code of Maryland, as amended from time to time; the production of all matters, encompassed within the definition of "farm product" in § 10-601(c), Agriculture, Annotated Code of Maryland, as amended from time to time; the cultivation and tillage of the soil; composting, production, harvesting and processing of agricultural crops; raising poultry; production of eggs; production of milk and dairy products; production of livestock, including pasturage; production of bees and their products; production of fish; production of fruit, vegetables and other horticultural crops; production of aquatic plants; aquiculture; production of timber and commercial agricultural procedures performed as incident to or in conjunction with such operations, including preparation for market, delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market; usage of land in furtherance of educational and social goals (including, but not limited to, 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America), agro-tourism and alternative agricultural enterprises; and the like.
- A flying vehicle that is used to perform a variety of duties related to agricultural and forestry production that include: seeding, spraying, dusting and control of forest fires.
- FORESTRY OPERATION
- Includes, but is not limited to, the propagation, raising, cultivation and production of all products derived from the practice of forestry on site, as encompassed within the definition of "forestry," as set forth in § 7-101(c), Business Occupations and Professions, Annotated Code of Maryland, as amended from time to time.
- GENERALLY ACCEPTED AGRICULTURAL OR FORESTRY PRACTICES
- Those methods used in connection with agricultural or forestry operations which do not violate applicable federal, state or local laws or the public health, safety and welfare and which are generally accepted agricultural or forestry practices in the agriculture or forestry industry. Generally accepted agricultural or forestry practices include those practices which are recognized as best management practices and those methods which are recommended by various governmental agencies, bureaus and departments, such as the Charles County Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland (CES), Charles County Soil Conservation District (SCD), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Charles County Forestry Department.
- SOIL AMENDMENT
- Organic or inorganic materials that are added to the soil that help to improve soil tilth, soil permeability, soil water-holding capacity and soil organic matter. Soil amendments may include, but are not limited to: sewage sludge (biosolids), animal wastes, leaves, grass cuttings, compost, etc. These materials must be used and applied in a manner that is consistent with best management practices and nutrient management planning.
- The noise, sound or linear motion that results when agricultural or forestry equipment is performing normal seasonal activities. These include: cultivation, plowing, discing, planting, spraying, irrigating, harvesting, crop driers, hauling and transporting of agricultural and forestry products and other activities associated with normal agricultural activities, including the harvesting of trees.
In addition, a private action may not be sustained on the grounds that the agricultural or forestry operation interferes or has interfered with the use or the enjoyment of property, whether public or private, if:
The agricultural or forestry operation, including any change in the operation, has been underway for a period of one year or more and if the operation or change did not constitute a nuisance from the date the operation or change in the operation began; and
The agricultural or forestry operation is conducted substantially in accordance with generally accepted agricultural or forestry practices.
Notwithstanding any provision of this section, no action alleging that an agricultural operation or forestry operation has interfered with the reasonable use or enjoyment of real property or personal well-being shall be maintained if the plaintiff has not sought and obtained a final judgment from the Agricultural Reconciliation Committee, as defined in § 235-4 herein.
Nuisances which affect public health.
Complaints. A person may complain to the Charles County Health Department to declare that a nuisance exists which affects public health.
Investigations. The Health Officer shall investigate all complaints of nuisances received against an agricultural or forestry operation. When a previous complaint involving the same condition resulted in a determination by the Health Officer that a nuisance condition did not exist, the Health Officer may determine not to investigate such a complaint. The Charles County Health Department may initiate investigations without citizen complaint.
After the Health Officer has completed the investigation, the Health Officer will report the findings to the Agricultural Reconciliation Committee, to aid in their nuisance determination.
Resolution of disputes regarding agricultural and forestry operations.
Should any controversy arise regarding an interference with the use or enjoyment of property resulting from agricultural or forestry operations conducted on agricultural land, the parties to that controversy shall submit the controversy to the Agricultural Reconciliation Committee as set forth below.
The Charles County Agricultural Reconciliation Committee shall arbitrate and mediate disputes involving agricultural or forestry operations conducted on agricultural lands and issue opinions on whether such agricultural or forestry operations are conducted in a manner consistent with generally accepted agricultural or forestry management practices.
The Agricultural Reconciliation Committee shall be composed of five persons, all Charles County residents, who are appointed by the County Commissioners of Charles County. One member shall be recommended by the Agricultural Advisory Committee, one member shall be recommended by the Charles County Farm Bureau and three members shall be chosen at large by the Commissioners representing the entire County. Members of the Committee shall serve at the pleasure of the County Commissioners for two full four-year terms. Members shall have the option to be considered for reappointment, and the term limit of each member will be based on County policy unless the County Commissioners of Charles County decide otherwise.
The Agricultural Reconciliation Committee will conduct its proceedings in an informal manner, and the rules of evidence shall not apply. In each case before it, the Agricultural Reconciliation Committee shall issue orders settling or otherwise resolving controversies arising out of agricultural or forestry operations, including but not limited to the invasion of property and personal rights.
If the Agricultural Reconciliation Committee or a court finds that the conduct of a party in bringing or maintaining an action in connection with an agricultural or forestry operation conducted on agricultural land was in bad faith or without substantial justification, the Reconciliation Committee or court may require that party to pay to the owner of the agricultural operation or forestry operation (or any other party opponent) the costs of the proceeding and the reasonable expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees, incurred by that party in defending against the action.
Upon all transfer of real property, the transferor shall provide the purchaser or lessee with a statement advising the purchaser or lessee of the existence of this Right to Farm Ordinance, which shall be in the form set forth in Appendix A.
Editor's Note: Appendix A is included at the end of this chapter.
In addition, because of the County's desire to maintain a good neighbor relationship between the agricultural industry and the citizens, and the County's desire to provide this information to County real property owners, the Charles County Treasurer shall mail a copy of the "Right to Farm Notice" to all owners of real property in Charles County with the annual tax bill, beginning in fiscal year 2002, in the form set forth in Appendix B.
Editor's Note: Appendix B is included at the end of this chapter.
Penalty for violation. Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of an infraction punishable by a civil penalty not exceeding $100. Failure to comply with any provision of this right to farm notice and real estate transfer disclosure section shall not prevent the recording of any document, or the title to real property or any mortgage or deed of trust made in good faith or for value, and it shall not affect the application of this chapter.