Township Approves Market Garden Ordinance
Qualifying residents can apply to the Planning Board for permission to grow produce and sell it off-site.
Committee Member Robert Gallop missed the vote, and Committee Member Kevin Tubbs cast the sole dissenting vote.
The committee shifted the order of the agenda to accommodate the schedules of Gallop and Tubbs. Gallop was present at the start of the meeting, but left to make a presentation to the county at about 8 p.m. Tubbs was unavailable to attend in person, but was reached on speakerphone at about 8:45 p.m.
When the discussion of the ordinance began, Township Attorney Carl Woodward said he realized the Rolling Knolls Superfund Site could qualify. He suggested the committee may want to delay passing the ordinance until language was added specifically excluding the site.
Other options, Woodward said, were to pass the ordinance Thursday and pass an amendment on a separate occasion, or to pass the ordinance without an amendment at all.
Township Administrator Thomas E. Ciccarone first recommended the committee postpone the vote and approve a final version with the amendment, but later said he wished to "withdraw my earlier comments."
In contrast to previous meetings where the market garden ordinance was discussed, public comments were brief and limited. Ronald Gunn thanked the committee for developing a "well thought-out plan" for commercial market gardens, and Daniel Miller said he thought the ordinance would "protect the integrity of areas like Green Village."
Margy Capecelatro raised several issues with the ordinance, including asking how market gardens differed from commercial landscape companies. She also asked how the ordinance would exclude "fleets of trucks" from being parked on residential properties.
Mayor Nicole Hagner said the ordinance permitted the growth of produce, defined by the ordinance as "exclusively fruit and vegetables."
Ciccarone told Capecelatro the ordinance allows "one commercial vehicle up to a certain weight." He could not remember the exact weight limitation, but he specified a "small pick-up truck" with a company name on it is acceptable, as are commercial vehicles parked for short periods of time.
Capecelatro also asked whether Committee Member Kathy Abbott would recuse herself, since she uses the landscape company Green Path Landcare at her home. Green Path is owned by the Bucuks of Green Village Road, who are one of the two families who first asked the committee to consider this ordinance.
"I have evaluated the issue and there is no conflict," Woodward said. "She does not need to recuse herself."
Capecelatro then asked whether Hagner or Committee Member Bailey Brower Jr. needed to recuse themselves from the vote. Hagner has a residential property that meets the requirements for the market garden ordinance, as does the Noe Pond Club.
Woodward said Hagner and Brower did not need to recuse themselves from voting on an ordinance with "broad municipal applications." Ordinances, he said, "obviously are going to have an effect on everyone who lives in the town, including the people who vote for it. Given the broad coverage of this ordinance, I do not consider that to be a conflict of interest, either."
About 20 residents were present at the meeting and waited for the vote to be cast. The chamber after the meeting had a palpable air of relief, from residents and committee members, as the debate over this controversial ordinance came to an end.
"I just think that common sense prevailed," Brower said after the meeting.
Miller said, "It's good the committee was able to see through that, the Planning Board was able to see through that, and property owners will be able to use their properties as they see fit."
Thomas Bucuk said he, too, was "glad" the issue was resolved.
"I'm glad it passed, and I'm glad we didn't wait on an amendment because people deserved to have a decision," Abbott said.
The ordinance takes 30 days to go into effect. To qualify, a property must be zoned as residential and have over three acres. A total of 277 properties in town are over three acres in area; 61 of those properties are zoned residential.
Property owners must file a farm conservation plan with the township clerk which adheres to standards of the Soil Conservation District and the USDA National Organic Program.
Residents desirous of obtaining permission to farm must also adhere to rules of the state Agricultural Development Committee and Department of Environmental Protection, and recommendations of the Rutgers University Agricultural Experiment Station.
The committee also passed an amendment to the ordinance to eliminate the Rolling Knolls Superfund Site from the qualifying properties. The amendment passed 4-0, with Gallop still absent from the meeting.