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 .