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County planners say no to revised Murray law for special events at farms

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 May 2019 at 3:33 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Planning Board voted again to not support a local law from Murray to regulate special events at farms and wineries.

The town presented the local law to the Orleans County Planning Board in March, and the county didn’t back it.

The town revised the law, and the Planning Board, in a 10-5 vote on Thursday evening, didn’t support approval for the Murray law.

The board said it was concerned that feedback from the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, sent on Thursday morning, wasn’t reflected in the regulations.

The town is trying to allow more farm operations to host special events, operations that currently don’t fall within protections from Ag & Markets and the Right to Farm law. Those regulations allow farm practices and sales if the events directly promote products from the farm.

Murray wants to allow Kateland Farms to legally be able to host weddings and special events. The miniature horse farm on Lake Road has hosted weddings in recent years, but the use doesn’t meet the current zoning for a residential-agriculture district.

Hosting weddings also may not promote miniature horse “products.” Murray is trying to give Kateland an option in the local law for hosting the events, while also including language for restrictions and controls to protect neighbors from noise after-hours and other impacts from the operation.

“We believe we are expanding the opportunities in the Town of Murray to host events,” Paul Hendel, a member of the Planning Board, told the other board members on Thursday.

Hendel also is a member of the Murray Town Board. The town had a public hearing on the proposed law on April 9 and received lots of pushback from other farms, who are concerned they will need a special use permit from the town for their events.

Amy Machamer, co-owner of Hurd Orchards, said that permit, requiring approval every year (now every two years with the revised proposed law), creates uncertainty for farms and leaves the approval to a code enforcement officer who might not fully understand the businesses or may not grant approval for political reasons.

Hendel said the town’s proposal wouldn’t affect farms that currently meet Ag and Markets’ standards for special events.

“This will open the door of opportunity that is currently closed,” he said about operations like Kateland.

But Machamer said the proposed law needs to clearly say the farms that meet Ag & Markets’ standards are exempt and won’t need a special use permit.

The staff at the County Planning Department recommended the Murray law be approved. County staff said it provides a way for the town to address neighbor concerns about noise, traffic by the side of roads and other issues.

Kevin Johnson of Clarendon, a member of the Planning Board, said he worries the town law would have a negative effect of farm markets and wineries, especially through the uncertainty of needing a special use permit.

The Murray Town Board can still approve the local law, without the county’s backing.

(Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect that the County Planning Board didn’t have enough votes to support Murray’s proposed law, which differs from the first version of the article which said the board recommended denial for the referral.)

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