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Town of Rochester MA   Zoning By-Laws

Zoning By-Laws: Table of Contents

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Section 1 Legislative Purpose and Intent

The purpose and intent of this By-Law is to state with emphasis the Right to Farm accorded to all citizens of the Commonwealth under Article 97, of the Constitution, and all state statutes and regulations thereunder including but not limited to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40A, Section 3, Paragraph 1; Chapter 90, Section 9, Chapter 111, Section 125A and Chapter 128 Section 1A. We the citizens of Rochester restate and republish these rights pursuant to the Town’s authority conferred by Article 89 of the Articles of Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution, ("Home Rule Amendment").

This By-Law encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculture-based economic opportunities, and protects farmlands within the Town of Rochester by allowing agricultural uses and related activities to function with minimal conflict with abutters and Town agencies, when done in compliance with applicable state laws, Town By-Laws and regulations. This By-Law shall apply to all jurisdictional areas within the Town.

Section 2 Definitions

The word "farm" shall include any parcel or contiguous parcels of land, or water bodies used for the primary purpose of commercial agriculture, or accessory thereto. "Commercial" shall be defined by the minimum acreage requirement or the gross sales and program payment requirement specified in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 61A, Section 3, as amended. "Farm" shall also include youth related agricultural activities, such as but not limited to 4-H, irrespective of minimum acreage or gross sales and program payment requirements.

The words "farming" or "agriculture" or their derivatives shall include, but not be limited to the following:

  • farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil;
  • dairying;
  • production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural, viticultural, or horticultural commodities;
  • growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, and any other forestry or lumbering operations;
  • raising of livestock including horses;
  • keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise; and
  • keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle, ratites (such as emus, ostriches and rheas) and camelids (such as llamas and camels), and other domesticated animals for food and other agricultural purposes, including bees and fur-bearing animals.

"Farming" shall encompass activities including, but not limited to, the following:

  • operation and transportation of slow-moving farm equipment over roads within the Town;
  • control of pests, including, but not limited to, insects , weeds, predators and disease organism of plants and animals;
  • application of manure, fertilizers and pesticides;
  • conducting agriculture-related educational and farm-based recreational activities, including agri-tourism, provided that the activities are related to marketing the agricultural output or services of the farm;
  • processing and packaging of the agricultural output of the farm and the operation of a farmer's market or farm stand including signage thereto;
  • revitalizing drainage or irrigation ditches, picking stone, erecting, repairing or maintaining fences, and clearing, rejuvenating or maintaining pastures;
  • maintenance, repair, or storage of seasonal equipment, or apparatus owned or leased by the farm owner or manager used expressly for the purpose of propagation, processing, management, or sale of the agricultural products; and
  • on-farm relocation of earth and the clearing of ground for farming operations.
Section 3 Right To Farm Declaration

The Right to Farm is hereby recognized to exist within the Town of Rochester. The above-described agricultural activities may occur on holidays, weekdays, and weekends by night or day and shall include the attendant incidental noise, odors, dust, and fumes associated with normally accepted agricultural practices. It is hereby determined that whatever impact may be caused to others through the normal practice of agriculture is more than offset by the benefits of farming to the neighborhood, community, and society in general. The benefits and protections of this By-law are intended to apply exclusively to those commercial agricultural and farming operations and activities conducted in accordance with generally accepted agricultural practices. For any agricultural practice, in determining the reasonableness of the time, place and methodology of such practice, consideration shall be given to both traditional customs, practices and procedures as well as to new practices and innovations. Moreover, nothing in this Right To Farm By-Law shall be deemed as acquiring any interest in land. The protections contained in this By-Law do not replace any applicable zoning or legal restrictions associated with agricultural operations.

Section 4 Disclosure Notification

Prior to the sale or exchange of real property, or prior to the acquisition of a leasehold interest or other possessory interest in real property, located in the Town of Rochester, the landowner shall present the buyer or occupant with a disclosure notification which states the following:

"It is the policy of the Town of Rochester to conserve, protect and encourage the maintenance and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food, and other agricultural products, and also for its natural and ecological value. This disclosure notification is to inform buyers or occupants that the property they are about to acquire or occupy lies within a town where farming activities occur. Such farming activities may include, but are not limited to, activities that cause noise, dust and odors. Buyers or occupants are also informed that the location of property within the Town may be impacted by commercial agricultural operations including the ability to access water services for such property under certain circumstances. Purchasing, and henceforth occupying land within Rochester means that one should expect and accept such conditions as a normal and necessary aspect of living in Rochester."

Written notification may occur in one of several ways, including but not limited to, a disclosure form, addendum to a Purchase and Sale Agreement, or otherwise and must include an acknowledgement by the buyer that they have received and understood the notification. A copy of the disclosure notification shall be filed with the Board of Selectmen or its designee within thirty (30) days of the sale, purchase, exchange or occupancy of such real property.

Within 30 days after this by-law becomes effective, the Board of Selectmen will make a written example of a notification available for use by landowners or their agents (and assigns) and shall place a copy of the above disclosure in a prominent place in Town Hall.

Within 60 days after this by-law becomes effective, the Tax Collector shall begin including a copy of the above disclosure and notification requirements with all responses to requests for Municipal Lien Certificates

In addition to the above, a copy of this disclosure notification shall be provided by the Town to landowners each fiscal year by mail.

A violation of Section 4 shall be subject to a fine of $300 and shall be enforced by the Board of Selectmen or its designee. The Town is authorized to enforce Section 4 under the non-criminal disposition provision of M.G.L. c. 40, § 21D.

Section 5 Resolution of Disputes

Any person who seeks to complain about the operation of a farm may, notwithstanding pursuing any other available remedy, file a grievance with the Select Board, the Zoning Enforcement Officer, or the Board of Health, depending upon the nature of the grievance. The filing of the grievance does not suspend the time within which to pursue any other available remedies that the aggrieved may have. The Zoning Enforcement Officer or Select Board may forward a copy of the grievance to the Agricultural Commission or its agent, which shall review and facilitate the resolution of the grievance, and report its recommendations to the referring Town authority within an agreed upon time frame.

The Board of Health, except in cases of imminent danger or public health risk, may forward a copy of the grievance to the Agricultural Commission or its agent, which shall review and facilitate the resolution of the grievance, and report its recommendations to the Board of Health within an agreed upon time frame.

Section 6 Severability Clause

If any part of this By-Law is for any reason held to be unconstitutional or invalid, such decision shall not affect the remainder of this By-Law. The Town of Rochester hereby declares the provisions of this By-Law to be severable.

David Smith moved, and it was duly seconded, that the Town adopt the Right-to-Farm Bylaw as provided in Article 2 with the following amendment. Deleting the first sentence of the last paragraph of Section 4 and inserting the following: "A violation of the first two paragraphs of Section 4 shall be subject to a fine of $300 and shall be enforced by the Board of Selectmen or its designee."

A motion was made to amend the "In addition to the above, a copy of this disclosure notification shall be provided by the Town to landowners each fiscal year by posting on the website."

The motion to amend Passed by Unanimous Vote

Article 2, as amended, Passed by Unanimous Vote.

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