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Law proposed in Fort Ann to regulate small farm owners

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FORT ANN — A resident is taking matters into her own hands and is trying to create a local law that would dictate how small farm owners run their land and animals.

Currently, there are no state regulations on how small farm owners have to treat their property or livestock.

At Monday’s Town Board meeting, Deborah Witherell, deputy supervisor, proposed to have a public hearing on the resolution.

The local law would consist of a wide variety of rules and regulations, including corral measurements, proper disposal of manure, wandering animals and the penalties if any codes are broken.

The motion to hold a public hearing on the proposal was passed 3-1. The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11 at Town Hall.

Denny Fletcher, a Town Board member, voted against having the discussion.

Town Supervisor Richard Moore was absent from the meeting due to recent surgery.

“I think the issue should be explored and all of the concerns should be looked into ... I don’t want to make a decision before I hear the public’s comments,” Moore said over the phone. “I’m not sure how they public will feel about it.”

But the law is anticipated to impact many residents, considering Fort Ann is an agricultural town.

Moore said he didn’t know how many small farms are in the town, but knows there are 17 parcels that have a property class of a either a cattle or dairy farm.

To be considered a “regular farm,” you need to have at least 200 head of livestock, Witherell explained.

She admitted she’s had personal problems with a neighbor and their farm animals and decided trying to make an ordinance would resolve the problem for good.

Farmer and Witherell’s neighbor, Adam Tracy, allegedly contaminated her well water with E. coli bacteria, according to Witherell. Tracy has about 20 cows, bulls and heifers. The allegation was never proven and Tracy has previously said he thinks Witherell is trying to make him get rid of his cows.

“In all honesty, yes, that’s what drove me to do this. But it’s not the sole reason. If it was the sole reason it would have happened four years ago,” Witherell said.

“I started investigating the laws when I started having problems and it’s up to the towns to make them, so I decided it was time,” she added.

Some of the rules outlined in the proposal include livestock being prohibited if the owner doesn’t have at least one acre of land. The provider also must have a minimum of 100 square feet of free space per animal, 75 square feet from any dwelling and 75 square feet from any property line.

“All livestock within the town shall be under the control of the owner or custodian at all times, and shall not cause harm, annoyance or infringement to any other person’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their property,” the proposal reads.

Manure has its own laundry list of regulations too.

Shelters and barns must be cleaned no less than daily and corrals and outdoor areas no less than once per seven days. How it’s disposed is based on volume, which is described in the proposal.

And with laws come penalties for breaking them.

If a person violated the ordinance once, that person would be fined no less than $50 and no more than $250, or imprisonment for no more than seven days. A second violation is a fine no less than $100 and no more than $1,000, or imprisonment for no more than 10 days, and so on.

The law doesn’t apply to dogs or cats.

“There’s going to be some people who will not be very happy about this,” Witherell said.

Resident Michael Dornan isn’t supportive of the law.

“They should call it the Adam Tracy law,” Dornan said. “It’s just wrong.”

Dornan said he believes there are about 50 small farms in the town.

“People’s barns have to be cleaned more often than my house,” he said. “It will put these small farmers out of business and they’ll enforce it with only those they want to enforce it with.”

You can reach Callie Ginter at 742-3238 or Follow her on Twitter @ callieginter_ps


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