[HISTORY: Adopted by the Special Town Meeting of the Town of Groton 10-23-2006 by Art. 25; amended in its entirety 4-30-2018 ATM by Art. 18. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
There shall be an Agricultural Commission (Commission) to promote and develop the agricultural resources of the Town; to promote agricultural-based economic opportunities; to preserve, revitalize and sustain the Groton agricultural industry; to encourage the pursuit of agriculture as a career opportunity and lifestyle in the Town of Groton; and to represent the Groton farming community.
The Commission shall have all of the powers and duties enumerated in MGL c. 40, § 8L, which shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
Buy (only with funds available to the Commission), hold, manage, license, or lease land for agricultural purposes;
Educate the public on agricultural issues;
Advocate for farmers, farm businesses and farm interests;
Assist farmers in resolving municipal problems or conflicts related to farms;
Seek to coordinate agricultural-related activities with other governmental bodies or unofficial local groups or organizations that promote agriculture;
Receive grants, gifts, bequests or devises of money or personal property of any nature and interests in real property in the name of the Town of Groton, in accordance with MGL c. 40, § 8L, and subject to the approval of the Board of Selectmen;
Apply for, receive, expend and act on behalf of the Town of Groton in connection with federal and state grants or programs or private grants related to local agriculture, with the approval of the Groton Board of Selectmen;
Advertise, prepare, print and distribute books, maps, charts and pamphlets related to local agriculture that the Commission deems necessary for its work;
Conduct research and prepare agricultural-related plans, including a comprehensive local agricultural land plan which shall be, to the extent possible, consistent with the Town of Groton's current Master Plan and regional area plans, which may be amended whenever the Commission deems necessary, and which shall show or identify:
Agricultural land areas and facilities within the Town of Groton;
Matters which may be shown on a tract index under MGL c. 184, § 33;
Acquisitions of interest in land under this section;
Municipal lands that are held as open space;
Nonmunicipal land subject to legal requirements or restrictions to protect that land or its use for open space, conservation, recreation or agriculture;
Land that should be retained as a public necessity for agricultural use; and
Any other information that the Commission determines to be relevant to local agricultural land use.
The Commission may appoint a Chair, clerks, consultants and other employees and may contract for materials and services as it may require, subject to appropriation by the Town of Groton;
The Commission shall maintain accurate records of its meetings and actions and shall file an annual report with the Town Clerk and shall also post the annual report on the Town's website and print it in the Town's Annual Report for that year;
The Commission may purchase interests in the land only with funds available to it. The Town Meeting may raise or transfer funds so that the Commission may acquire, in the name of the Town, by option, purchase, lease or otherwise, the fee in the land or water rights, conservation or agricultural restrictions, easements or other contractual rights as may be necessary to acquire, maintain, improve, protect, limit the future use of, or conserve and properly utilize open spaces in land and water areas within the Town, and shall manage and control any such interests in land acquired pursuant to this bylaw; and
Pursuant to MGL c. 40, § 8L(h), the Commission may expend any income derived from deposits or investments to a duly-created Agricultural Preservation Fund of which the Treasurer of the Town of Groton shall be the custodian.
The Commission shall adopt rules and regulations governing the use of land and water under its control and shall prescribe civil penalties, not to exceed a fine of $100, for any violation of said rules and regulations.
The Commission shall not take or obtain land by eminent domain proceedings pursuant to MGL c. 79, § 1 et seq.
The Commission shall consist of five members appointed by the Town Manager, subject to approval of the Board of Selectmen for a term of three years; provided, however, that the initial members appointed under this section shall serve for terms of one, two, or three years, and the Town Manager shall arrange the terms so that the terms of approximately 1/3 of the Commission's members shall expire each year. All members of the Commission must be residents of the Town of Groton. Not less than three members shall be engaged in farming, as defined in MGL c. 128, § 1A, or employed in an agriculture-related field. If persons engaged in farming or persons employed in agriculture-related fields are not available to serve on the Commission, then the Commission shall include a majority of members with knowledge and experience in agricultural practices or knowledge of related agricultural business. The Town Manager, as the appointing authority, may remove a member of the Commission for cause, after a public hearing if so requested by the member. A vacancy created by the removal of a member for cause shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term of the removed member and in the same manner as the original appointment.
The Commission shall develop a work plan to guide its activities. Such activities shall include, but are not limited to, the following: serve as facilitators for encouraging the pursuit of agriculture in Groton; promote agricultural-based economic opportunities in Town; act as mediators, advocates, educators, and/or negotiators on farming issues; work for preservation of prime agricultural lands or waters within the Town of Groton; and pursue all initiatives appropriate to creating a sustainable agricultural community.