There has apparently been concern in our Zoning office( I actually spoke with Melissa Kellam today) that our current setbacks are unfriendly to the CAFO industry, and specifically to the chicken agribusiness sector. I could not ascertain from our conversation, when they decided that our zoning laws needed tweaking to accommodate this industry’s specific needs, or why they would even try to accommodate that sector, but I was told that our zoning sets backs appeared unfriendly to agriculture and the tinkering was an attempt to ward off problems.
Problems? What problems? I thought no one in our county was approached by the chicken industry. Are there nefarious forces at work behind the scenes, with veiled threats of law suits and or job security issues? Since when did not liking laws/ regulations make them unenforceable? Our regs have been in force since 2009. Can someone please enlighten me?
No one, is suggesting farmers not farm in Northampton County. We are suggesting, however, that not every agricultural endeavor is suited for every piece of farm land. I don’t think for instance, I should try to grow rice in Seaview.
Editors Note: This letter is from the Ms. Sturgis comments which were read into the record at the August Board of Supervisor’s meeting
Virginia’s Right to Farm Laws prohibit local governments from requiring a special or conditional use permit for agriculture or forestry operations located within an agriculturally zoned area or classification. Theses Code were specifically created (Right to Farm Legislation)to protect agriculture from being deemed a nuisance by localities.
As localities began the process of morphing from agriculture to suburbia, pressures brought on by nuisance complaints were forcing farmers off their land and prohibiting them from activities traditionally associated with their way of life.
Northampton County recognized this early on and , specifically evoking our agricultural heritage, provided mechanisms in our zoning code to insure our valued rural lifestyle would not, hopefully, fall to those pressures.
Although the Right to Farm Act says that local governments cannot require a special use permit for normal farming operations, they can still adopt setback requirements and minimum area requirements that apply to all like agriculture or forestry operations within an agriculturally zoned area. However, these requirements cannot unreasonably restrict or regulate farm structures or farming and forestry practices unless such restrictions bear a relationship to the health, safety, and general welfare of its citizens.
Apparently, the powerful farm lobby feels some localities, in particular Northampton County, have created setbacks that go beyond the health, safety and welfare of their citizens. I, and many others, think the Northampton County Zoning code, particularly set backs, afford some of the necessary protection to the county’s citizens against a myriad of health and safety issues associated with CAFOs. Northanpton County zoning regs, along with the CBPA and the new Storm Water regulations, are three complementary and intertwined tools,that must be used in concert, as no single set of regulations, can be relied upon to afford the coverage needed to insure there are no gaps in protecting our county. Please keep the CBPA and our current zoning setback requirements. I also urge, if a legal mechanism exists, the review and update of our current setbacks , to see if they can be increased , as current evidence and review of these set backs in other areas, such as South Carolina, reveal that ours may not in fact, be large enough.