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Legislators delay ag district inclusions

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators tabled a decision Monday on whether to include in an agricultural district land in the town of Canton that has proved difficult to balance guidelines for a residential zone versus those who want backyard chickens and commercial gardens.

Town Planning Board Chairman Michael K. Morgan wrote a letter asking the county to leave the use of the properties in the hands of the town.

“The town of Canton has just passed a community supported agriculture law for residential properties and the Planning Board is currently working on a law to allow chickens. I believe that is a fair compromise in a residential zone and the inclusion in the ag district is not necessary, nor does it make any agricultural sense. One of the properties is not large enough for any kind of ag use, other than a few chickens,” Mr. Morgan wrote. “I implore you not to include these properties in Ag District 2, and to allow the town of Canton to manage its zoning.”

The county Planning Office and the Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board determined inclusion of the properties would not affect town zoning.

“The intent of agricultural districts is to protect farm operations from unreasonable land use regulations, but they do not pre-empt or usurp a parcel’s zoning designation,” county planner Matilda M. Larson wrote in a memo to legislators. “The inclusion of these parcels in Ag District 2 does not authorize a property owner to engage in land use activities that are not permitted at that location.”

Protections provided to farmland in an ag district include protecting farmers from nuisance lawsuits when they are engaging in sound agricultural practices, requiring localities to review ag data when land use projects are involved, and protecting farm operations from unreasonable land use restrictions, among others.

In any event, town officials do not want the properties included in an ag district.

“Obviously, there’s some kind of concern,” Legislator Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk, said.

Legislator Stephen M. Putman, D-Canton, said he would reach out to town officials before next Monday’s meeting.

“It sounds to me there may be some misunderstanding of some regulations,” he said.

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