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Around The Grange
Southbury resident pitches right to farm ordinance

By Chris Gardner (Waterbury Republican-American 4/21/10)

  APRIL 23, 2010 --

There used to be more cows and horses than people in this former farm town, but many of the pastures now sprout supersized houses instead of hay.

At least one resident thinks the community needs to embrace its agrarian roots, and he wants selectmen to declare Southbury a "Right to Farm" town by passing an ordinance.

The law, which has been on the state's books since 1981, protects farms from complaints and requires real estate agents to notify home buyers if their new neighbors engage in any sort of farming activity.

Tony Roswell said the ordinance would afford more protection to people who keep hoofed animals like bulls, cattle, donkeys and goats, as well as chickens and roosters.

"This in no way gives anyone the right to be a nuisance," he said.

He presented board members with copies of Right to Farm ordinances from neighboring Oxford - which approved its ordinance in November - and Southwick, Mass.

Selectmen seemed open to the idea, but maybe not as an ordinance.

"An ordinance tends to get put on a shelf somewhere, where if it's in our Plan of Development we could really put it out there," Selectman Carol S. Hubert said.

First Selectman H. William Davis Jr. said the language could be incorporated as a preamble to the town's zoning regulations.

"I don't know if it's going to change the Realtors' attitude when they're selling a house," he said.

"Probably not," Roswell conceded.

Historically, Southbury residents have been fiercely protective of their right to keep livestock.

In 2005, a proposal by a local woman to regulate how many hoofed animals a person could keep was soundly rejected by the Zoning Commission.

The hearing drew about 700 people to the Pomperaug High School gymnasium. Everyone who spoke urged rejection of the proposal, which would have required people who want to own horses and livestock to have two "usable" acres, which meant wetlands, slopes and setbacks would not have counted toward the minimum lot size.

The town allows people to keep as many animals as they want as long as they have 40,000 square feet, which is less than one acre.

The applicant, Donna Stevens-Jacobs, said the issue was about preserving property values and the rights of people to enjoy their investment, but zoning commissioners saw no reason for increased regulation by town government.



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