Town ready to approve agri-tourism amendments to zoning

New sections would limit outdoor events; reduce noise levels and turn off music at 10 p.m.


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By Linda Smith Hancharick

– Last July, the Warwick Town Board imposed a three-month moratorium on applications to the town’s Agricultural Protection Overlay (APO) District. After making draft changes to the APO, the board heard from the public in October.

On Thursday, Feb. 14, the board was prepared to adopt its first local law of 2019, primarily amending the zoning law governing agriculture and the Agricultural Protection Overlay District.

According to Supervisor Michael Sweeton, the revisions to the proposed local law take into account comments from the public and include:

• Allowable noise levels reduced from 75 to 60 decibels

• Clarified number of outdoor events

• 10 p.m. limit to music

• Sound meters provided to police units.

Existing farm markets with greater than 4,000 square feet of space may hold festivals up to 12 days per year; they may also hold on-site events with up to 249 attendees, including weddings, up to 24 days per year.

Existing farm markets with less than 4,000 square feet of space may host farm festivals up to five days per year and hold on-site events up to 10 days per year.

A new section has been added to the zoning allowing properties located within the APO district that have not been designated to receive the special benefits of the APO to apply for a seasonal agricultural special event permit. This permit allows for 10 days of outdoor, on-site events from May 1 to Nov. 1 in a calendar year, including festivals and weddings. This permit must be renewed annually.

“We’ve met with all of the farmers and they understand the issues from their neighbors,” said Sweeton. “They are committed to being better neighbors.”

The board made changes it felt would be less intrusive to neighbors and still be sustainable to the farmers, Sweeton said.

“It is a compromise and will be subject to further changes,” he added. “If it doesn’t work, the farmers know it will change.”

Public hearing in OctoberThe board had a lengthy public hearing in October where residents and business owners spoke about how agri-tourism affected them.

Residents around Little York Road and Warwick Turnpike, in addition to other areas, voiced concerns with loud music and traffic coming from farm businesses nearby.

Ray Woloszak, a resident of Warwick Turnpike, said he is a mile and a half from ShopRite. “Bottom line of this thing is loud music,” he told the board. Rose Marie Woloszak said she can’t sit on her deck because of the music.

Niells Kampmann, a resident of Prices Switch Road, noted how sound travels in the area. “I can hear music from Pennings four miles away,”

“The agricultural community should be allowed to make a living but not at the expense of everyone else,” said Kampmann.

Jane Newman is the owner of Pioneer Farm, a farm in existence for 250 years. In 2016, she sold the development rights to the property. Now, this former dairy farm has 80 acres of hay fields, providing hay to other local dairy farmers. Each year, she said, she pays $45,000 in taxes. To help tackle that along with her mortgage, she started renting out the property for weddings. Last year, there were 10 weddings in June, September and October. She makes sure the music is off at 11 p.m., the current cut-off time.

“It’s a small price to pay to have property protected,” said Newman. “The other 345 nights, you hear crickets.”

Kurt Emmerich, too, provides a wedding venue at his tree farm on Sleepy Valley Road. That started in 2016. He does 24 per year. He objected to limiting it to 10, noting he’s had no complaints from neighbors.

Joe Grizzanti, owner of the Warwick Valley Winery on Little York Road, talked of the upside of agri-tourism – to preserve land is the only way to prevent development. Apples and cows don’t go to school, he said.

“This is the tremendous upside to agri-tourism,” he said.

The Warwick Valley Winery doesn’t do weddings because of neighbors’ concerns, he said. There is no music after 5 p.m. and music is provided only on weekends. He also suggested they could help solve the traffic problems. “We would be willing to pay for speed bumps,” he said.

“As a community and as a town, let’s get together and figure out something to do about the speeding traffic,” said Grizzanti. “We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

This week, Sweeton said the speed limit on Little York Road was decreased to 25 just before the October public hearing and there is now a weight limit on trucks.

“We’ve gotten some good feedback from neighbors,” he said.

Finding the balanceThe Warwick Town Board is hoping this local law addressing agri-tourism will stem the noise issues and find a balance, allowing farmers to hold events that will help keep them successful while maintaining the rural character of the town.

“Part of why Warwick is the way it is is because we have preserved farmland and made it sustainable for farmers,” said Sweeton. “It behooves us to keep that model.”

What are your thoughts? Go to www.warwickadvertiser.com and tell us what you think of the local law.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated online at warwickadvertiser.com after the town meeting on Thursday.

What is agri-tourism?

The new local law defines agri-tourism as “a set of activities that occurs when people link travel with the products, services and experiences of agriculture. Agri-tourism is conducted for the enjoyment or education of the public and primarily promotes the sale, marketing, production, harvesting or use of the products of the farm operation. Examples of agri-tourism include, but are not limited to, farm stays or farm-cation experiences, hay rides, wine trails, farm tours and farm festivals designed to support farm operations.”
To read the full additions, go to www.townofwarwick.org.
- Linda Smith Hancharick




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