[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of Groton 4-30-2007 by Art. 13. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The intent and purpose of this bylaw is to state with emphasis the right-to-farm accorded to all citizens of the Commonwealth under Article 97 of the Articles of Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, and all state statutes and regulations thereunder, including, but not limited to, MGL C. 40A, § 3, Paragraph 1; C. 90, § 9; C. 111, § 125A; and C. 128, § 1A. We the citizens of the Town of Groton restate and republish these rights pursuant to the Town's authority conferred by Article 89 of the Articles of Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution.
This general bylaw encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculturally based economic opportunities, and protects farmlands within the Town of Groton by allowing agricultural uses and related activities to function with minimal conflict with abutters and Town agencies. This bylaw shall apply to all jurisdictional areas within the Town. This bylaw shall not restrict the Town of Groton from enforcing any existing regulation or adopting any new regulation.
The word "farm" shall include any parcel or contiguous parcels of land, or water bodies under private ownership used for the purpose of commercial agriculture, or accessory use thereto.
The words "farming" or "agriculture" or their derivatives shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
Farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil;
Production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural, viticultural, or horticultural commodities;
Growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, and any other forestry or lumbering operations;
Raising of livestock, including horses;
Keeping of horses for commercial or recreational purposes; and
Keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle, ratites (such as emus, ostriches, and rheas) and camelids (such as llamas, and camels), and other domesticated animals for food and other agricultural purposes, including bees and fur-bearing animals.
Farming shall encompass activities including, but not limited to, the following:
Operation and transportation of slow-moving farm equipment over roads within the town;
Control of pests, including, but not limited to, insects, weeds, predators, and disease organisms of plants and animals;
Application of manure, fertilizers, and pesticides;
Conducting agriculture-related educational and farm-based recreational activities, including agri-tourism, provided that the activities are related to marketing the agricultural output or services of the farm;
Processing and packaging of the agricultural output and the operation of a farmer's market or farm stand, including signage thereto;
Maintenance, repair, or storage of seasonal equipment, or apparatus owned or leased by the farm owner or manager used expressly for the purpose of propagation, processing, management, or sale of the agricultural products; and
On-farm relocation of earth and the clearing of ground for farming operations.
The right to farm is hereby recognized to exist within the Town of Groton. The above described agricultural activities may occur on holidays, weekdays, and weekends by night or day and shall include the attendant incidental noise, odors, dust and fumes associated with normally accepted agricultural practices. It is hereby determined that whatever impact may be caused to others through the normal practice of agriculture is more than offset by the benefits of farming to the neighborhood, community, and society in general. The benefits and protections of this bylaw are intended to apply exclusively to those commercial agriculture and farming operations and activities conducted in accordance with generally accepted agricultural practices. Moreover, nothing in this Right to Farm bylaw shall be deemed as acquiring any interest in land, imposing any land use regulation, or restricting the Town of Groton from enforcing any existing regulation or adopting any new regulation.
Not later than 21 days after the purchase and sale contract is entered into, or prior to the sale or exchange of real property if no purchase and sale agreement exists, for the purchase or exchange of real property, or prior to the acquisition of a leasehold interest or other possessory interest in real property located in the Town of Groton, the landowner shall present the buyer or occupant with a disclosure notification which states the following:
It is the policy of this community to conserve, protect and encourage the maintenance and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food, and other agricultural products, and also for its natural and ecological value. This disclosure notification is to inform buyers or occupants that the property they are about to acquire lies within a town where farming activities occur. Such farming activities may include, but are not limited to, activities that cause noise, dust, and odors. Buyers or occupants are also informed that the location of property within the Town may be impacted by commercial agricultural operations, including the ability to access water services for such property under certain circumstances. Additionally, buyers or occupants are informed that all motorized vehicles shall be prohibited from traveling over any farm without written permission of the landowner.
A copy of the disclosure notification shall be given on a form prepared by the Town and shall be signed by the landowner prior to the sale, purchase, exchange or occupancy of such real property. A copy of the disclosure notification shall be filed with the Town Manager or designee prior to the sale, purchase, exchange or occupancy of such real property. In addition to the above, a copy of this disclosure notification shall be provided by the Town to landowners each fiscal year by mail.
[Amended 4-27-2009 ATM , Art. 19]
Any person who seeks to complain about the operation of a farm may, notwithstanding pursuing any other available remedy, file a grievance with the Town Manager, the Zoning Enforcement Officer, or the Board of Health, depending upon the nature of the grievance. The filing of the grievance does not suspend the time within which to pursue any other available remedies that the aggrieved person may have. The Zoning Enforcement Officer or the Town Manager shall forward a copy of the grievance to the Agricultural Commission or its agent, which shall review and facilitate the resolution of the grievance, and report its recommendations to the referring Town authority within an agreed-upon time frame.
[Amended 4-27-2009 ATM , Art. 19]
The Board of Health, except in cases of imminent danger of public health risk, shall forward a copy of the grievance to the Agricultural Commission or its agent, which shall review and facilitate the resolution of the grievance, and report its recommendations to the Board of Health within an agreed-upon time frame.
An Agricultural Commission has been established by vote of the October 23, 2006 Special Town Meeting to address and represent agricultural issues and interests in the Town of Groton. The Commission consists of five members appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Vacancies and expired terms shall be filled by the Board of Selectmen, taking into account the recommendations of the Commission and following the rules of the Town of Groton Committee Handbook. No less than three members of the Commission shall be engaged in the business of farming or related agricultural industries. This does not preclude all five members of the Commission being actively engaged in the business of farming or related agricultural industries. The duties and responsibilities of the Commission shall include, but not be limited to: advising the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Conservation Commission, Board of Health, Earth Removal - Stormwater Advisory Committee, and other local organizations on projects and activities, including acquisitions and other transactions involving lands in the Town of Groton; engaging in projects and activities to promote the business of farming activities and traditions and farmland protection, including programs, education and community events; and reporting on projects and activities on an annual basis in the Town report.
If any part of this bylaw is for any reason held to be unconstitutional or invalid, such decision shall not affect the remainder of this bylaw. The Town of Groton hereby declares the provision of this bylaw to be severable.