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No Water Quality Threat from Green Village Farming, Scientist Says

Expert tells township committee two visits to Bucuk property showed no current threats to Great Swamp

Chuck Gullage, a scientist and a resident of the Chathams, told the Chatham Township Committee during its meeting Thursday night that he saw nothing that would have any negative impact on the nearby Great Swamp Watershed.

Gullage is a water quality scientist and trustee with the Great Swamp Watershed Association but emphasized that he was at the meeting only as a resident and not on behalf of the association. He said that he took two separate trips to the property at 461 Green Village Road, which owners Thomas and Debra Bucuk wish to turn into a commercial family farm.

The Bucuks purchased the property in 2010. Their son, Michael, a Rutgers graduate, wants to turn the property into an organic farm and sell the produce at the Chatham Farmers’ Market.

The township committee  is considering a potential ordinance to allow small farming operations on properties south of Green Village Road.

Upset neighbors say such a farm would do more harm than good, and allege that the Bucuks have been operating a landscaping business from the property, which is currently zoned as a residential area. Township Administrator Tom Ciccarone has said that he has made sure there is no business operated from the property.

Gullage told the township committee Thursday night that on his first visit to the property, he walked the road next to the property and took pictures and video.

“I saw nothing inappropriate or offensive that would impact the watershed,” he said.

The next day, Gullage met with Tom Bucuk to discuss what the property owner planned to do.

Issues brought up by the neighbors include the need for a 300 foot buffer, the use of heavy equipment with close proximity to the brook on the property that runs to the Great Swamp Refuge, which abuts the proposed farming zone to the south. There also have concerns about salting being done and causing runoff into the brook.

“The 300 foot buffer restriction that was mentioned does not apply,” Gullage said. “That’s a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection specification for a C-1 stream, which this is not.”

Committee member Kevin Tubbs disagreed and said he believe the stream is classified as C-1. Gullage said he is sure it is not, but he will confirm.

Gullage said there is 50 foot buffer for wetlands that applies, but he saw no violation of that. He said the stream is already eroded and unstable and there is evidence that it floods during almost every rain.

Gullage said he has used different mapping programs to see what changes have occurred on the property over the years, and that in 2007 and 2010, furrows had been plowed right up to the stream bed, which he said is a bad practice because it allows runoff from the fields to go straight into the brook, carrying fertilizer and other pollutants with it.

However, he said, he saw no evidence of any agricultural activity. He added that the property owner has been cutting the grass in the lower field adjacent to the brook and had allowed for a vegetative barrier which would prevent runoff from going into the stream. This, Gullage said, is a best practice sanctioned by Rutgers.

He also said he did not observe any salt or salt spraying equipment on the property. He said Bucuk told him he does have salting operations but he stores the salt elsewhere, nowhere near the brook. He said he saw no evidence of heavy equipment on the premises.

Mayor Nicole Hagner told Gullage what would be the most helpful is if he could outline for the committee what he looks for to make sure the Great Swamp is being protected.

“We appreciate your comments, but all the committee is trying to do right now is understand how farming could work in Chatham,” she said.

Gullage responded that he is not qualified to address best practices of water quality, and that such information would be better coming from Rutgers. He did say, however, that he found no evidence of pollution or septic runoff into the brook on the property.

Hagner said the subcommittee working on the issue will be meeting soon with the county and will come back to the township committee with a report at the June 9 meeting.

Patrizia Giassa May 27, 2011 at 12:08 PM
As a Chatham Twp homeowner I would like to voice my support for responsible organic farming in Chatham. Having a small family farm like this in our town is a beautiful thing and many would be thrilled to buy Chatham grown lettuces and vegetables at our Farmers Market. Many thanks to the town for looking into making sure this is a responsible farm. If you support this small organic family farm, please let your voice be heard too.
Melissa Cavallone May 27, 2011 at 02:18 PM
I too am a Chatham Twp homeowner. Having a family-run organic farm nearby can help reduce carbon emissions from transporting the vegetables. I come from a family of farmers, although I am not one myself, but it seems to me that the Bucuks have a sustainable plan here, and have taken into account the nearby Watershed. I would much rather have this kind of farming than the huge commercial operations that have taken over our food supply. I do, however, appreciate that the Township Committee is looking into all aspects of the proposal to best serve all Chatham residents and anyone else who draws water from the Great Swamp Watershed.
Stephen Mruk June 01, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Hi I am a former resident of Chatham Twp. and a recent Landscape Architecture graduate. I understand there may be some opposition to the Bucuks farm in the area. Based on my background and education, I see no real negative affect if the situation is handled properly. For the water quality issue there are many steps that can be taken to prevent any pollution or contaminates from leaving the property. Not knowing what is currently in place, the best way to solve this is with a vegetive swale and retention basin. All property runoff would be collected by the swale and then channeled to the basin where it is stored for absorption in to the ground or evaporation in to the atmosphere. The vegetation would be such that it mitigates different pollutants and is ascetically pleasing. This would resolve any problems with runoff pollutants from the property, and protect the stream and swamp. I understand the contention with the property being classified as commercial and the idea of commercial in a community. The problem with a property being zoned for commercial is that you do not know who or what will be built or placed there in the future, thus deteriorating the future outlook of the community. However if the farm is allowed but the property not zoned for commercial use, this issue in non-relevant. Continued...
Stephen Mruk June 01, 2011 at 03:32 AM
The former property I lived on could easily of had a small garden that was 60% of the lot size. This would be small when looking at a half acre lot and would produced food for the house and a bit extra to pass around to friends. Now If I produced the same 60% on my current property it would produce an abundance of food. I am stating that if someone can have a garden that is x% of a property then moves in that town and has an equally sized garden on the new property, why can’t they sell the extra. In a day and age where more and more initiatives are underway to reduce wast and reliance on large corporations, we need people like this who are wiling to not take a large profit but enjoy the reword of helping our small and intimate communities. Sincerely, Steve M.
Dave June 08, 2011 at 04:42 PM
I would like to point out that there are some who are against the small farming (as I can see its mostly only Honickel and Templin) that have been flagging comments as inappropriate in orderer for the commments to be removed from this site. This is a cowardly tact that not only makes it appear that the community is in favor of banning farming, but it also strips the people of thier First Amendment Rights, which Templin has made it very clear his family fought to protect. This is a public forum and a place for people to comment. If those who are against the small farming are afraid to let people speak and be heard then please take your fight someplace else. Remember..this is the Land of Opportunity not guarantee. ~Dave
debbie bucuk June 11, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Chatham Township is considering allowing farming on certain properties of sufficient size and in certain areas. This is not about rezoning residential properties to commercial properties like some people are saying. It is about allowing some property owners to grow produce and sell it off site. It is important that people understand the real facts of what they are fighting for or against.

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