Hardy Plumbing
February 09, 2011

Focus On Farming



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No one disagreed that farming is an imperiled industry on the East End and deserving of assistance. The extent to which the help is provided was a theme last Thursday night during an East Hampton Town Board public hearing on a proposed revision to town law regulating planning review of agriculture-related applications.

Spearheaded by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley the zoning amendment, if approved, would allow an administrative review by the town building inspector of farming site plans. Currently the planning department and planning board provide the analysis of applications.

Speaking in favor of the proposal, Joe Gergela of the Long Island Farm Bureau called the idea a "wonderful thing." He praised East Hampton for being on the leading edge of supporting agriculture. A handful of local farmers including Alex Balsam and Scott Chaskey favored the town code amendment. They noted that New York State Ag & Markets law supercedes local law and says a municipality may not be overly restrictive during review of farming site plans, and spoke to the prohibitive cost of the planning process.

Qualified support for the proposal came from a handful of speakers. Sylvia Overby a former planning board member, observed the town board may be "in the right church, but the wrong pew." She and several others expressed concern about giving the building inspector the authority to review site plans when it's the planning department that has expertise in the agricultural arena. Although he was mostly supportive of the measure, local attorney Richard Whalen said he wasn't sure the town could legally give the building inspector such authority.

Other opponents to the scheme included Elaine Jones, who worried applications would be processed without adequate neighbor notification and Jennifer Dauria who complained about the preponderance of deer fences marring open vistas. Bonnie Krupinski said the fences make the farms look like "concentration camps." Quigley noted the amendment doesn't speak to deer fencing, which she said she finds "horrific," too. The farmers said they refrained from erecting deer fence as long as they could, but the loss of crops to the foraging herds made them a necessity.

Krupinski, whose family owns quite a bit of farmland in Amagansett, recalled that when the community began to focus on preserving ag-lands. "The idea was open space, open vistas."

"That's not what we have now," she continued. Krupinski was among those concerned with putting review of proposed farmland projects in the hands of the building inspector. But, she acknowledged the planning process is "laden." Streamlining the process at the planning board level may be a better idea. Quigley said the idea of the amendment was prompted by an applicant who wanted to erect a temporary hoop house only to find the current requirements were "absurd."

Due to a defect in public notification, the hearing was adjourned and will continue at a later date.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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