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Open Space and Farmland Preservation  
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COUNTY AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING MAY 21, 2012     
 
 
MEMBERS PRESENT:          George Brewer             Chairman
                                            James Hazlett              Vice-Chairman
                                            Warren Stiles
                                            James Hand
                                            Sue Ann Wheeler
                                            Leslie Rea
                                            Freeholder Will Morey
                                            Barbara Ernst               Div. Dir. Open Space &
                                            Farmland Pres.
    
CALL TO ORDER:       Chairman Brewer called the meeting to order at approximately 7:30 P.M.
 
FIRST ITEM:               Mr. Stiles made a motion and it was seconded by Chairman Brewer to approve the minutes of the March 26, 2012 meeting.
 
SECOND ITEM:         Chairman Brewer said he was concerned with changes that were proposed at a recent Open Space Roundtable that would amend the program to include additional uses of the fund. He said the voters did not approve the additional uses and he does not believe that people voted to develop playgrounds. He said the intent was to preserve open space and protect farmland and he felt the new uses are contrary to the original resolution.
 
                     Chairman Brewer asked Mrs. Ernst for a quick overview, which she deferred to Freeholder Morey who had chaired the roundtable.
 
                     Freeholder Morey said there is a fair amount of land preserved in the county, whether by regulation or by land trusts.   He said that nothing has changed in the program, but from the comments that he has received from the municipalities on the issue of preservation, communities are looking to enhance the quality of life of their residents by developing areas for recreational use.  He said this gives us reason enough to start additional discussion on expanding the program.  He said in an area like Cape May County, we should have the additional uses.
 
                     Freeholder Morey cited two municipalities that have specific projects that would be initiated immediately upon receipt of funding. He said they are seeking multiple sources of funding to execute their plans.
 
                     He said that Dennis Township has stated that additional open preservation area would not benefit them, but that funding for the restoration of a historic school house would enhance their community.
 
                     Freeholder Morey said that Lower Township has also indicated that they would like to develop a public fishing/boating pier on the Delaware Bay in their community that would provide the water access for public recreation that is popping up as a need in our communities.
 
                     He said that he is trying to balance out the strategic use of what we have and what would add value and benefit to this county.  He said these are the types of issues we will be looking at over the next few months.
 
                     Freeholder Morey said that legislation allows us to incorporate these additional uses, but that there is a specific process that we must adhere to including public notice and a public hearing.
 
                      Chairman Brewer again restated that the voters did not vote for these additional uses.
 
THIRD ITEM:               Mrs. Ernst reviewed the correspondence noting that a mediation hearing on the Natali background music issue will be held on Friday June 1, 2012 at 3:30. She said an investigation report had been received from the Health Department advising the parties involved that the meter readings taken during an event held at the winery were anywhere from 41-50 dBA with an average of 45-48.  The report also stated that the traffic from Route 47 clearly caused the level to spike and the sound from the birds chirping caused both background readings and total sound readings to increase.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst said the maximum dBA noise level allowed in Middle Township was 65 dBA.  She also said that Mr. Natali had listened to the neighbors’ complaints and did try to remediate the situation with sound barriers and location change of the live music. She encouraged any member available to attend the hearing.
 
                     Mr. David Bohm had re-affirmed his request for the allocation of an RDSO that was listed on his application and approved by this Board on September 29, 2008.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst stated that a letter had been received from Mr. Monzo representing Mr. Rea    informing the Board that an addition was planned for the existing farmhouse for the enlargement of a kitchen for the processing and baking of products grown primarily on the farm. A sketch and a copy of the permit was attached. 
 
                     Comments from the Cape May County Board of Agriculture on the On-Farm Direct Marketing Facilities, Activities and Events AMP that were forwarded to the SADC were reviewed and Mrs. Ernst said they reflected the concerns of farm market operators in our county.  She said the SADC will review all the comments received statewide and may as early as this month adopt the Agriculture Management Practice, or it may take several months to discuss issues raised during the comment period before a final version is adopted.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst said that nevertheless, the adoption of the AMP  would give the counties a base practice that sets an overall uniform standard that may be revised with a Site Specific Agricultural Management Practice to meet certain unique conditions.
 
                     Freeholder Morey asked how the adoption of the AMP would affect this program.  Mr. Stiles replied that it would add another layer of protection for the farmer.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst also presented the Board with a copy of Warren County’s comments that opposed the entire AMP as written as “they may not serve the best interests of rural farmers in Warren County”.  The proposed AMP sacrifices local CADB discretion for State uniformity, overburdens conscientious farmers who already enjoy protection with an additional layer of restrictions, and provides ammunition for aggrieved parties to harass responsible parties”.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst stated that Assembly Bill No. 323 co-sponsored by our Assemblyman Milam was forwarded to her by Mayor Pam Kaithern.  She said that we were asked for comments on the bill from our legislative office.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst said that the legislation permits special occasion events that promote agricultural tourism to be conducted on preserved farmland under certain circumstances.
 
                     She said that she was concerned about two sections in the legislation that would require the County Agriculture Development Board to practice accounting and to also interpret the intent of the language “special occasion event” as the only example given was a wedding.
 
                     She said the legislation as written, would require:
 
                     “c. An owner or operator of preserved farmland engaged in conducting special occasion events shall annually certify to the county agriculture development board that the special occasion events together account for less than 50% of the annual gross income of the preserved farmland during each calendar year.  A county agriculture development board shall forward the certification of annual gross income to the State Agriculture Development Committee.”
 
                     The Board discussed this section as the legislation did not clarify who would be reviewing these certifications at county level on those farms that did not receive SADC funding and are not subject to SADC oversight.
 
                     Freeholder Morey commented that as he read the passage we would just be passing everything over to the SADC for their review. 
 
                     Mrs. Ernst said the paragraph:
 
                     “Special occasion event” means a wedding, other lifetime milestone event, or other special event, as determined by a county agricultural development board, held on a date allowed pursuant to paragraph (3) of the subsection a. of this section, and which advances the agricultural or horticultural output of the preserved farm and promotes agricultural tourism.”
 
                     requires this Board to interpret special events venues that could open up farm marketing events to any and every type of agricultural output that might include pig roasts, chicken bar-b-ques, and beef bar-b-ques each week, multiple times a week, as a prior paragraph also allows for exceptions from the weekend and holiday dates.
 
                     The Board discussed the events interpretation and concluded that farmers needed additional marketing exposure and the ability to produce value added farm commodities to sustain the economic viability of the farm.  They did agree that more clarification was needed in this section that would tighten up the interpretation of “Special Occasion Event”.
 
                     Freeholder Morey questioned the reasoning for tightening up the language rather than allowing the farmers the economic platform and flexibility to sustain the industry.
 
                     Chairman Brewer asked if the farmers would be keeping accurate enough records to comply with the 50% yearly income threshold and how does one comply with the 50%.
 
                     Mr. Stiles commented that the legislation was written to allow wedding venues at wineries.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst said that 10 counties as represented by the co-sponsors of the legislation , not including Cape May, are supporting the legislation and they make up the large agricultural sector of the State.  She suggested that support should be given with reservations.
 
                     Chairman Brewer suggested that we send a letter to Assemblyman Matthew Milam asking for clarification of the discussed sections.  Freeholder Morey suggested that the CADB also ask for clarification on the issue of responsibility to audit or track income from the farm if challenged by certification.
 
                     Mr. Stiles made a motion, it was seconded by Mr. Hand, and unanimously approved to send the letter for clarification.
 
                     The SADC has notified the County that there is no funding available for soil and water conservation cost share grants, but there may be some re-allocation of funds from cancelled projects.  Applications are still being accepted and applicants will be put on a waiting list for these re-allocation of funds.
 
FOURTH ITEM:         Mrs. Ernst said that the financial statement from the Treasurer’s office showed the balance in the fund at the end of March 31, 3012 was $8,924,663.15.
 
FIFTH ITEM:               Chairman Brewer presented one application for preliminary review.
 
                     Upper Township, Block 559, Lots 22,23,25,26
                     (Curtis Corson)                         30 Acres
                    
                                The farm is located on Route 9 in Ocean View and is immediately adjacent to the north to the restricted Roth farm which is immediately adjacent to an approved applicant, the Bauer farm. The farm is also in the very near vicinity of the recently purchased open space Somers Corson parcel to the south.
 
                     Currently there are 2 residential units on the property and Mr. Corson has indicated on a tax map that he would also like to formally subdivide a 1 acre parcel from the farm.  Mr. Corson stated that he has the largest beach plum production in the county and that he also hays the Roth parcel.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst said that with the preservation of this farm a nice nucleus of over 85 acres of restricted farmland would be created.  
                    
                     Mr. Rea made a motion and it was seconded by Mr. Stiles to preliminarily accept the Corson application into the program for further processing.
 
                     Roll Call taken, Leslie Rea, Yes; Sue Ann Wheeler, Yes; Warren Stiles, Yes; George Brewer, Yes; James Hand, Yes; James Hazlett, Yes. The motion passed with 6 yes votes.
 
PUBLIC COMMENT:      Mr. Kevin Celli, Director of the Willow Creek Winery asked to read a statement to the Board.
 
                     Mrs. Ernst brought the Board’s attention to a copy of Mr. Celli’s comments from a social networking site that were forwarded to her by a neighbor of the winery.
 
                     In the body of the text Mr. Celli comments that numerous activities can occur on a restricted farm, but he also states that weddings are an approved activity.  Mrs. Ernst said the comments are inaccurate since weddings are not an approved event.
 
                     Mr. Celli continued to read the statement that outlined a Rutgers study of marketing events held on wineries throughout the state to keep them economically viable.
 
                     Chairman Brewer said that this Board has always supported farmers.
 
ADJOURNMENT:         Mr. Stiles made a motion; it was seconded by Mr. Rea, and unanimously approved to adjourn the meeting at 9:30 P.M.
 
                     Next Meeting July 30, 2012 at 7:30 P.M. 
 
                                           Respectfully submitted, 
 
 
                                           Barbara M. Ernst
 
                                       


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