Subcommittee formed for agricultural amendment

Planning Board wants to hear from public on zoning language

PETERBOROUGH — In May, voters approved a petition zoning amendment aimed at giving farmers more options for the use of their land. The amendment to the zoning ordinance, which passed by a vote of 470 to 376, called for a conditional use process by which the Planning Board could approve farm dinners, hayrides, wedding receptions, farm-to-table cafes, foliage tours, bed-and-breakfast facilities and similar uses on 50-acre or larger parcels in the Rural District.

Planning Board members opposed the petition article, which referred to an “Agricultural Business Enterprise Zone” that does not exist. Because it was approved, board members believe it will need to be amended at next year’s Town Meeting. To start that process, the Planning Board on Monday approved a four-person subcommittee to study other ordinances related to what’s known as “agritourism” and gather public input.

Committee members are Planning Board Chair Ivy Vann, Planning Board Vice Chair Tom Weeks, Agricultural Commission member Andrea Cadwell and Conservation Commission member Jo Anne Carr.

“We’re going to have many public meetings on this,” Vann said at Monday’s Planning Board meeting. “I like us to come up with some overarching guidelines. My goal is to make clear all the things you can do without having to ask anyone.”

She said the subcommittee would act as a conduit, gathering public input in order put together a draft for an amendment to the ordinance that voters approved.

Weeks noted that the subcommittee will be interested in hearing from anyone who would be affected by more extensive or varied uses on agricultural land, including abutters and residents of the neighborhoods near the farms in town.

“If it’s going to negatively impact people, that needs to be addressed,” Weeks said.

Vann said Tuesday that the group’s first organizational meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. today at the Town Hall. She said workshops and hearings will be held during August and September, with a goal of having a draft amendment ready for discussion at a public hearing by late September.

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