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Letter: Agritourism enterprises must not be bigger than farms

The Monitor’s Feb. 21 editorial, “Agritourism law needs clarification” questioned whether to allow agritourism businesses larger than the farming operation.

I disagree with your conclusion to eliminate size restrictions.

By including the phrase “which is ancillary to the farm operation” in RSA 21:34-a, the Legislature intended that the agritourism businesses not detract from the farming operation. Ancillary, meaning secondary to or subordinate to, limits agritourism businesses to being no larger than the farming operation. If both are equal in size, growth requires that the farm grow first.

The Legislature also did not relieve agritourism businesses from compliance with local land use regulations.

Agritourism businesses larger than the farm risk shifting the owner’s emphasis away from farming. Without size restrictions, there is no incentive to maintain or grow the farm. The farm may even disappear, resulting in only commercial businesses on land zoned rural or residential, in addition to defeating the intent of agritourism. Agritourism could become a back door for starting commercial businesses where not allowed by zoning. Small farms proposing larger agritourism businesses have questionable motives.

Neighbors accept existing farms but introducing larger agritourism businesses with increased noise and traffic results in safety concerns, unacceptable loss of quality of life, and significant loss of property values for the neighbors.

Without size restrictions, local land use agencies will be forced to consider the impact of new agritourism businesses both as proposed and with future growth.

Agritourism businesses must comply with current regulations. Revisions require careful consideration of possible unintended anti-farm consequences.

Newtown, Conn.

(The writer lives in Newtown, Conn., and owns land in Henniker.)

NOTE: I meant to say "...before the term agritourism was added to the RSA in 2007..." (RSA 21:34-a Farm, Agriculture, Farming)

Mr. Bennett, please stop misleading the public by purposely misquoting "agritourism" legislation (RSA 21:34-a). The phrase is “OR active involvement in the activity of the farm which is ancillary to the farm operation.” This little word "or" carries a lot of meaning. Under this RSA a farmer can also attract visitors to a working farm for the purpose of eating a meal, making overnight stays, enjoyment of the farm environment, and education on farm operations. Mr. Forster's 30+ years as a tree farmer, and his enjoyment of hosting weddings and like events on his beautiful farm in the off season, has been going on there long before agritourism was added to the 2007 RSA, and your brother taking up residence in the neighborhood in 2007/2008. Also, contrary to your belief that “the Legislature did not relieve agritourism businesses from compliance with local land use regulations,” please read RSA 672:1, II-b: "Agricultural activities are a worthwhile feature of the NH landscape and shall not be unreasonably limited by use of municipal planning and zoning powers or by the unreasonable interpretation of such powers." As a gentle reminder, local land use boards don't dictate our zoning laws though the attempts are always there. That seemed to be the philosophy and intent of purpose for why your brother served on the Henniker Planning Board for 19 years (half of those years as chairman), and still seems to have that belief today. "We the people," the legislative body of the town, define zoning through warrant articles and a vote at town meeting.

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