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Market Garden Ordinance Up for Introduction

After nearly a year of controversy, the ordinance comes up for first vote Thursday.

Nearly 10 months after before the Committee about farming activities in their neighborhood, an ordinance allowing "market gardens" as a conditional use is now slated for introduction.

The official introduction of the ordinance for adoption marks the beginning of the end of a debate that has brought hostility to an otherwise quiet area in Chatham Township first settled more than 200 years ago.

The committee held a public discussion in October to consider allowing farming in town on properties under five acres (properties over five acres can farm, under township law.) They decided to send a draft ordinance to the township Planning Board for their consideration and comments on allowing farming as a conditional use.

The Planning Board determined small farms were permissible under the township's Master Plan, but . They to the draft and in January.

In the course of , three of five committee members said they would vote for the ordinance. 

Richard Erich Templin, of 480 Green Village Rd., has voiced his opposition to the ordinance since it was first discussed by the committee. He said in an emailed statement Wednesday, "I am still deeply opposed to our Township converting residential properties to for-profit businesses."

During the Feb. 23 meeting, Templin suggested two of the committee members who said they favor the ordinance, Kathy Abbott and Bailey Brower Jr., should recuse themselves from the vote. Abbott uses a landscaping company owned by one of Thomas and Debra Bucuk, one of the families who wish to farm on their Green Village Property. 

Should both committee members recuse themselves, Templin said, "I do not expect [the ordinance] to pass."

Debra Bucuk said she hopes the ordinance does pass. "People are very interested in local and organic food," she said, "and I know that Chatham recognizes that and I'm hoping the ordinance fits within their Master Plan. It sounds like it does."

After waiting nearly a year, she said, "I'm hoping that [the ordinance] gets approved. ... I'm just anxious for it to be resolved."

Brower said the Planning Board, on which he sits, and the Township Committee have "tried to address some of the issues the neighbors have brought up" in their changes to the ordinance.

"I think this was developed with a lot of thought, and I think there was consideration given to everybody," he said. "I think it fits in with the right of people to use their properties as they want." 

An updated draft of the ordinance is not posted on the Chatham Township website, and requests for an updated draft from Chatham Patch did not receive a response.

A Brief History

Thomas, Debra and their son, Michael Bucuk moved into their property at 461 Green Village Rd. in 2010 from former township Mayor Abigail Fair. They began making alterations to the property, including cultivating about half an acre of land toward the back of the property for farming. The property borders Loantaka Brook to the west and is less than a mile from the Great Swamp.

According to the Great Swamp Watershed Association and the state Department of Environmental Protection, Loantaka Brook is a Category 1 (C-1) water body within the boundaries of the Great Swamp. Outside of the swamp it is a Category 2 (C-2) water body.

C-1 waters require a 300-foot buffer from any development. C-2 waters need a 50-foot buffer.

The Bucuks' neighbors, Daniel and Carol Ann Miller, agreed to let the Bucuks farm a portion of their adjoining property. All parties have stated they want to grow organic produce and will not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

According to the Millers and the Bucuks, they wish to grow produce on the land and sell it off-site, particularly at local farmers markets.

Other neighbors, however, have not been thrilled with the developments. Templin reported the development to the town because operating commercial enterprises in the area, which is zoned residential, violates township law.

Since the topic first came before the Chatham Township Committee, Miller has spoken at numerous committee meetings asking the town to let him use his property as he wishes, as long as it does not harm his neighbors or the land. "This property has been farmed before," he said before the committee, referring to the town's history as a farming community and to the work his grandfather did on the property.

Shirley and Jim Honickel, of 472 Green Village Rd., live across the street from the Millers and next to Templin. A lifelong resident of Green Village, Shirley does not think commercial farming maintains the character and history of the area.

"I remember when everybody had a garden, goats, chickens," she said."We all had the Victory Gardens during World War II. "But my father was an electrician. My grandfather had a little store. If that's what they call farming, I have to dispute that. I really do," Honickel said.

The produce farmed at that time was for personal use, or shared with neighbors, not sold for profit, according to Honickel.

Another neighbor, Christopher Struening, has also spoken at numerous committee meetings in opposition to the farming. He is opposed to changing the zoning laws and to allowing farming in a residential zone.

In an interview with Chatham Patch in July 2011, Struening said, "If you want to grow vegetables and have a ginormous farm at your place of residence, that's fine. The problem I have is the zoning change they're trying to seek."

Paper and online petitions on both sides of the issue were circulated throughout Chatham Township. Chuck Gullage, a water quality scientist and trustee with the Great Swamp Watershed Association, he “saw nothing inappropriate or offensive that would impact the watershed" on the Bucuks' property.

Sally Rubin, the executive director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, said , mostly from the Seaton Hackney Stable in Morris Township, the water is safe to use for underground irrigation. 

"I don't believe that using that water, even if it has been contaminated, is a problem for irrigation because you can take that same manure, compost it, and use that as a fertilizer, which [would be] much more intense than whatever has been diluted in the stream.

"There's nothing wrong with using manure as a fertilizer. That's organic," Rubin said. "What they don't use in organic farms is chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides."

Struening did not respond to a request from Chatham Patch to comment for this article.

The Chatham Township Committee meets Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the .

Richard E. Templin March 08, 2012 at 06:58 PM
This article brings to life a couple of issues that Chathamites should be concerned with. The first is the environmental impacts already caused by Green Path's landscaping operation at this supposed "farm". The property they are developing is in fact a C-1 waterway which can be confirmed by the DEP. It is protected by a 300 barrier for a reason and that reason is to protect the water quality feeding the Great Swamp National Refuge. Additionally, the Green Path has already filled in several acres of protected wetlands by doing "their modifications". This is not the conduct of an environmentally concerned company. The second issue is the lack of accountibility by our politicians. Kathy Abbott is specifically required to recuse herself from the vote under our Code of Ethics. It is bad enough that she overlooked the abuses conducted by Green Path while serving on our environmental board. Now she is endorsing their behavior! All because they mow her lawn...
Richard E. Templin March 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM
If you into the political intrigue, here is some of the background. They bought the property from Abbey Fair, our old Mayor and activist with the Watershed Association (the group being quoted above as experts, but their findings are opposite that being given by the DEP). Abbey Fair and our Democratic Chairman Celeste Fondanco have been the Organic farmers PR faces for their marketing campaign. Now Celeste Fondanco was formerly famous for her run against Danny Miller for Committeman. Danny Miller is the guy proposing to rent his property to the Bucuks to farm. Celeste described him "as a redneck hick" during her campaigning. They are supported by ultra-right-wing conservative Committeman Bailey Brower who was famous for bashing these two in his weekly newsletter. Additionally, former Democratic now Republican Mayor Nicole Hagner promised them on day one that she would give them what they wanted. Nicole Hagner is famous for switching to the Democratic party after her live in boy friend (now fiance, but no wedding date) attacked a fellow Democratic Committeeman during a township meeting. Now if you are sensing the four horseman of the apolypse are coming together than I am with you. Since none of these people have ever agreed on anything, its got to be about the money!
Vinny Z March 14, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Deleted 6xs now. What the heck is going on?  This is an argument made by the committee and the board in support of the ordinance. It is also incredibly disingenuous. I can repair my car brakes in my driveway. I can repair my mother in laws brakes. I can not open a commercial auto repair shop on my residential property. The difference is one activity is commercial the other is not. The difference is that there is a profit motive associated with one activity and not the other. This really should not require explanation. You do not need a truck to transport produce from a home garden. You do not drill wells to irrigate a home garden. You do not hire people to pick the tomatoes from a home garden. You don't use tractors to prepare a home garden. The difference is scale. It's that simple. So can we stop pretending this is a home garden for family and friends? To see what happens when a profit motive is involved look at the satellite views of the activity at The Farm at Green Village. They were grandfathered in to allow for commercial nursery activities on a discrete parcel of land. They purchased numerous adjacent residential properties and expanded their commercial activities to these residential properties. Now I have no idea if this was done properly or not. But I have decided to look into this to ensure that I understand how this happened, so that I can prevent it from happening with the commercial farming ordinance. 
Gladys Smith July 18, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I agree it's all about scale. There is the local produce sold locally that does not impact the environment and that is fine. In many communities the farms, local stores and local restaurants all support each other and keep everything with in the community and do a little outside sales. It help create a healthy economy and community. There are many examples to be found already in process. A sustainable farm interested in keeping local and fresh is great. A farm that is going to be shipping all over the country and interested in having GMO plants and terrible toxic pesticides is not so good for anyone.
Richard E. Templin July 18, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Thanks for the comment Gladys. No one in this debate is against farming or gardening. The real concern is zoning and the intentions of those claiming to be farmers. We in Green Village would be much more comfortable if our farmer was a farmer and not a landscape company (Green Path). We would also be much more comfortable if they didn't using harassment as their principal means of making their neighbors capitulate to their business interests. We would also be more comfortable if they were not foolish to explain their business interests were to bring in their landscaping using the justification of New Jersey's all powerful Right to Farm Act. We support farming done by citizen farmers. Not out of town landscapers who claim they are going to sell at a farmers market one moment and then say they are going to sell to Wegmans the next. Which version of the truth will it be next? http://www.savegreenvillage.com/
Dave 2 July 18, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Mr. Templin - Please post the link showing where any party involved with this issue said they will be selling their produce to Wegmans. Like your claim that they harass their neighbors (looking at your hack web site, tell me who's harassing who?) this too is a false accusation and lie. Again, as stated before, the Right to Farm Act is unassociated with the Market Garden Ordinance. Just because you say it is does not make it so, it is documented in more places then I can link.
gogogo July 18, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Mr. Templin, lies and deceit will make you the politician that you falsley acuse our govenment of being. Obviously your only thoughts are of your self, and not good and decent public servants and citizens.
Dave 2 July 19, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Please show where it said anything about selling anything to Wegmans. I looked and can not find it. I did not feel the need to comment on your Wegmans post because you made yourself look like a fool, not because of anything you said to me. Again, your comments are full of typical Templin lies. It is becoming easier and easier to prove you wrong with your lie filled posts and hack web site..

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