WHEREAS, the intent of the act was to provide an opportunity for a commercial nonagricultural use to landowners who preserved their farmland prior to the act and were not aware of the possibility or potential benefit of excluding land from preservation for such future uses; and
WHEREAS, it also was intended to recognize the need of erecting cell phone towers on preserved farms due to the unique location of the land and, in doing so, provide all owners of preserved farms with the opportunity to realize supplemental income from the use of a very small portion of the farm for that purpose; and
WHEREAS, the act requires that a farm must meet the definition of a commercial farm under the Right to Farm Act to qualify for a special permit for either a commercial nonagricultural use or cell tower; and
WHEREAS, the act requires that a farm must have been preserved prior to January 2006, with no exception areas in the deed of easement, to be eligible for a commercial nonagricultural use; and
WHEREAS, any landowner of a preserved farm is eligible to apply for a special permit for a cell phone tower, regardless of when the farm was preserved and whether land was excepted from the deed of easement; and
WHEREAS, under the act, a landowner who receives a special permit to erect a cell tower is not precluded from applying to obtain a special permit to conduct a commercial nonagricultural use, and vice versa; and
WHEREAS, the act requires that the commercial nonagricultural activity utilize a structure or structures existing as of the enactment of the act (January 12, 2006), except that it allows for an expansion of up to 500 square feet provided that certain conditions are met; and
WHEREAS, the act stipulates that the permit does not run with the land and may not be assigned, and the commercial nonagricultural activity cannot be a high-traffic volume business and no new parking areas may be created to support it; and
WHEREAS, the act directed that the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) develop guidelines for implementing and administering the act; and
WHEREAS, the SADC in July 2007 proposed new rules that set forth the eligibility criteria, required information, evaluation criteria, review process and conditions to obtain a special permit to erect a cell tower or conduct a commercial nonagricultural use on a preserved farm; and
WHEREAS, in developing these draft rules, the SADC was particularly mindful of:
- the Legislature’s directive that buildings and land for nonagricultural uses be utilized in their “existing condition” and that only “small enterprises” could qualify for a special permit; and
- the understanding that the extent of allowable improvements to farm structures can exacerbate the obstacles to future farmers to be able to afford to purchase preserved farms; and
- the recognition that farmland is preserved for agricultural use and the need to ensure that nonagricultural uses are a supplemental, not primary, focus of activity and investment for the preserved farm; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rules require that the commercial nonagricultural use must be compatible with the agricultural use of the premises and surrounding land use of adjacent properties; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rules require the commercial nonagricultural use cannot use any equipment or process that creates noise, vibration, glare, fumes, odors or electrical or electronic interference that affects the quiet enjoyment of property owned by neighbors; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rules require the commercial nonagricultural use cannot have multiple businesses/uses within the same structure or structures, including commercial, industrial or office use within the same structure or structures; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rules require the commercial nonagricultural activity must utilize structures in their existing condition, with the exception of an expansion of no more than 500 square feet or a conversion of no more than 2,500 square feet of the interior of an existing structure to accommodate the use under certain circumstances; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rules require there can be no expansion of waste-water facilities to accommodate the use. New public utilities (water, gas, electric, sewage, etc.) will not be permitted. However, an expansion of a public utility that already exists on the farm, other than waste-water facilities, will be permitted; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rules require the commercial nonagricultural use can employ no more than four full-time employees at peak operational periods; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rules require for cell phone towers, the applicant must prove that no viable alternative exists to placing the facility on preserved farmland and must avoid placement of the facility on prime agricultural soils.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 93rd State Agricultural Convention assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 5, 2008, call upon the SADC to re-examine S206 and promulgate rules that are less restrictive and allow greater flexibility for agricultural operations to operate commercial and/or non-agricultural activities in existing structures on certain preserved farms.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, we urge the SADC to allow for the maximum utilization of existing structures within the law, pursuant to the act.