Noncommercial Farm

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cowboy joe, Mar 23, 2004.

  1. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

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    Does anyone have any information on becoming a noncommercial farm. While I live in New York State, any information would be helpful.

    The local zoning codes define a noncommercial farm as "Any parcel of land in excess of five (5) acres where all or part of the land is used for the production of farm products for private consumption, or for sale with an average gross sales value of less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000.)." I've contacted the town, city, county and will probably have to contact someone in a state department in the near future. The town acknowledged that the classification exists but no one has been able to tell me how to apply.

    The area I live in a rural area. A new expressway has the area budgeoning with building activity as the roadway provides quick access to a large city. My neighbor to the east brought in the heavy equipment last fall to clear some of the hardwoods and level some of the property. It's a prime piece of real estate and will fetch more money as housing lots than he would make in the next fifty years. Can't say as I blame him if he goes that route.

    I've invested a lot of time and sweat in my homestead and have concerns that I will eventually be shut down because some upitty new neighbor gets a bug up their backside about living next to a farm with livestock. I'm thinking that classification as a noncommercial farm will 'grandfather' the operation for as long as I work the property.

    Any ideas / suggestions will be sincerely appreciated.
     
  2. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I assume you have asked the local zoning department?

    If you are zoned residential, and want to change your zoning, you must apply in writing for that. I CAN ask DH who used to work in a zoning department, but it would help to know what the zoning department said. Also, he isn't awake, yet. :p
     

  3. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

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    Yep, checked with zoning first...they sent me to the town clerk who sent me to the county clerk who sent me to Env Conservation (???why???) who shrugged their shoulders and sent me back to the town. Contacted the town supervisor, or at least I think I did, via e-mail through the town website. Still waiting for a response...at least I'm getting to meet a lot of new people!
     
  4. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Well, Joe, you do have a situation. My name is Ron and not only am I Terri's lesser half, but I am also a land use planner. Unfortunately, I don't have experience in New York state. With the caveat, here goes –

    First, you need to find out what jurisdiction is controlling the local zoning regulations. You mentioned town (I assume that is a township governmental unit), city, and county. Only one jurisdiction will typically govern. Unless you are located in the city or located within say 2 or 3 miles of a city that has extraterritorial zoning, you can eliminate them. Typically, if a township enforces zoning, then the county regulations will not apply. If you eliminate the city and township, that leaves only the county.

    Second, you need to know what zoning district your property is in. For example, Agricultural or Rural Residential.

    Third, you need a copy of the regulations for that zoning district. The regulations will list a number of uses; those permitted outright; those permitted by special approval; and accessory uses.

    As you say, there is a definition for “noncommercial farm.” This “use” will be listed somewhere in some district. If it is listed as a permitted use and your property complies with all other bulk requirements; i.e., setbacks, lot coverage, area, etc., then you are a noncommercial farm. If on the other hand it is listed as a special use, then the zoning authority will have some set procedure for approval before some governing body – city council, county supervisors, planning commission, board of zoning appeals, etc. You will have to find the one individual who serves as the “zoning administrator” for specific information. This person may be the building inspections official, local planner, city clerk, or county engineer. If you can’t find the person who “knows” that they are the official “zoning administrator” then check with the local governmental attorney. That person had better know who is responsible.

    Now for the bad news, if “noncommercial farm” is not listed at all for your property’s zoning district, then you would have to seek some sort of zoning amendment. I won’t try to explain that now. See what you can find out and let me know how it goes.

    Good luck,
    – Ron
     
  5. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

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    Hello Cowboy Joe from a non-commercial farm in Ulster County NY. What you are describing has more to do with taxes than anything else. It enables people who make their living from their land to get a tax break. It will not "grandfather" anything. Each year I have to show the state government that my primary income is from what I produce on my land. If you want to protect your agricultural use from challenges you need to check into your county's "right to farm" legislation - if any. I have known some nasty battles to happen between large farms that do things like aerial spraying, but I have never heard of problems between very small farms and local residents. Most small farms are treated as precious in my area and the zoning laws tend to support them.