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Agricultural use wording in proposed LeRay zoning law draws concerns, state scrutiny

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LeRay’s proposed zoning law has residents concerned that it could limit certain farming work in its Agricultural Residential District.

The law, which requires certain operations to receive a special-use permit from the town, is under review by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Jessica L. Jenack, the town’s community development coordinator who helped organize the committee making the rules, said the confusion was based on a “miscommunication.” She said town officials would review the law’s wording and comments from residents at this week’s zoning meeting.

The town’s zoning law says dairy, poultry, fur and hog operations with more than 100 bovine, 100 birds, 12 fur-bearing animals such as rabbits, foxes and minks or 12 hogs require a special-use permit.

Mrs. Jenack said the permit would be required only for properties not in a Jefferson County agriculture district or under the state’s farm definition. Operations of a state-defined farm, she said, would require only zoning approval.

The state defines a farm as having seven or more acres with sales of $10,000 or more in the preceding two years, or smaller sites with sales of $50,000 during that time.

Mrs. Jenack said the law’s wording was meant to prevent non-farm properties from unexpectedly adding a large number of animals. Such a change, she said, could cause problems for neighboring residents. Mrs. Jenack said the town forwarded its proposed zoning law to the state for further review.

A spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets said Friday that its staff will perform that review and offer recommendations to the town.

Perhaps outlining the comments to come, the spokesman passed along the department’s guidelines for zoning. They state that “the construction of on-farm buildings and the use of land for agricultural purposes should not be subject to site plan review, special use permits or non-conforming use requirements.”

Town resident Barbara Schell, who previously operated a dairy operation with her husband, Clifford, is concerned about the law’s wording. She and her husband, who now provide standing hay to other town residents, wrote a letter to the town Wednesday.

“For an area that has been in farming for a couple hundred years, to have to apply for their permission to have a dairy is certainly unacceptable, and more likely illegal,” Mrs. Schell said Friday.

The law’s wording also drew concerns from Jefferson County’s Planning Board, which reviewed the plans at its meeting in March.

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