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County planners oppose Murray’s proposed regs for special events at farms and wineries

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2019 at 9:46 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Amy Machamer, co-owner of Hurd Orchards in Holley, said Murray’s proposed law for special event regulations at farms and wineries, would add uncertainty for her business.

MURRAY – The Orleans County Planning Board voted on Thursday against proposed regulations from Murray to regulate special events at farms and wineries.

Planning Board members said Murray’s proposed law isn’t clearly written, has some contradictions and may not be needed because the state Agriculture and Markets law already gives farm operations protections for hosting special events.

Paul Hendel, a Murray Town Board member, said the town regulations are intended to help more farms have special events to sell their agricultural products.

“We’re not trying to put anybody out of business,” said Hendel, who is also a member of the County Planning Board.

The town regulation wants farms and wineries to notify the town’s code enforcement or zoning official of any special events. Those events throughout the year must be a secondary revenue stream for the farm or winery, and can’t become the primary source of money for the business, according to the Murray proposal.

“I wouldn’t jump into this,” said Planning Board member Kevin Johnson of Clarendon. “It’s going to affect a lot of farmers.”

“We think it will help them,” Hendel responded.

Ron Vendetti, a former Murray code officer, said the regulations are well intentioned “but poorly crafted.”

While Hendel said the regulations would grandfather existing operations with special events, the regulations don’t clearly say that, Vendetti said.

“It doesn’t specifically say Hurd Orchards and Salamacas (Salamaca Estate Winery) are OK,” Vendetti said.

Amy Machamer, co-owner of Hurd Orchards, said the Murray proposal is very concerning for her, given the uncertainty with how regulations are interpreted by a code officer or Planning Board.

Although Hendel said existing businesses aren’t affected by the regulations, Machamer said another Town Board or Planning Board in the future could view it differently.

Hurd Orchards uses many luncheons and special events to sell fruit and flowers grown on the farm, she said.

Agri-tourism is a big part of many farms, she said, citing a movement for more breweries, even farms renting out rooms as Airbnbs.

She also is concerned about the setback proposal requiring buildings to be at least 100 feet from the road. Machamer said Hurd owns many historic buildings that were built close to the road and don’t have a 100-foot setback.

Joe Sidonio, Machamer’s husband, said the regulations aren’t needed because the town already adopted a Right to Farm law in 2001, that encourages agri-tourism and special events at farms.

“We already have it on the books that we are promoting agriculture and we want it to grow,” Sidonio said.

Sidonio said the town’s proposal “is repetitive and discriminatory.”

Hendel said the town wants to help other farms, not currently using special events to sell products, to add that revenue stream.

The Town Board will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. on April 9 about the regulations. That hearing is at the Murray Town Hall, 3840 Fancher Rd.

The Town Board can adopt the regulations but will need a super-majority vote due to the County Planning Board’s vote of denial.

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