2017-05-25 / News

Council opposes state bill aimed at zoning

The town councilors unanimously signed a resolution Monday night opposing the proposed Right to Farm Act, which would give farms carte blanche to host weddings, concerts and festivals on their properties.

The resolution has been sent to the state legislature’s leadership in Providence.

The proposed legislation, introduced April 28 in the House by Cranston Rep. Gregory Costantino, would relinquish zoning control from municipalities.

The councilors scheduled a special meeting to approve the resolution because testimony already is underway in committee.

“We wanted to send a message to the State House,” said Kristine Trocki, council president.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero drafted the resolution. He looked at the “perceived implication of this occurring, and how it would affect the community.”

House bill 6172 would create secondary agriculture operations, which could be regulated by municipal zoning but not prohibited. Among these operations include “the display of antique vehicles and equipment, retail sales, tours, classes, petting, feeding and viewing of animals, hay rides, crop mazes, festivals, weddings and other special events.”

According to Monday’s resolution, the town opposes the bill because it will “essentially allow commercial operations unrelated to agriculture and farming on certain qualifying properties without regard to the nuisance or undesirable externalities imposed on abutting and nearby residencies.”

The legislation also would “undermine local land control” and “allow for the establishment of commercial activities typically associated with significant negative externalities without adequate and proper controls to mitigate their negative impacts.”

The resolution also mentions the potential value decrease of real estate that abut these farms and “a substantial detrimental alteration of the status quo balance between legitimate farming … and the quiet enjoyment of residential use.”

Jamestown Rep. Deb Ruggiero said she will vote against the bill if it gets to the House floor. It’s not about farming, she said, but rather developers trying to create commercial enterprises on land set aside for agriculture. She called it a “power grab.”

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