New Ideas for Farm Review

    The East Hampton Town Board will hold a hearing tonight on a proposal to hand the oversight of buildings on active farmland, such as temporary greenhouses or “hoop houses,” and farmstands, to the town architectural review board, eliminating the need to go through town planning board site plan review before a building permit is issued. The hearing begins at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
    According to the proposed legislation, “typical zoning regulations are for residential uses” and result in the “unintended regulation of farm operations.”
    The proposal is meant to “respond to the farmers’ concerns while ensuring the ability to have local issues examined while not requiring professional assistance to complete or review the process.”
    No formal survey would be required as part of an application to put up a farmstand, which could be as large as 500 square feet, a temporarty greenhouse, or an agricultural building.
    Instead, the farmer could provide a sketch showing the property’s location and adjacent roadways and properties; the approximate location of water and sewer systems, natural features, and existing structures on the lot or adjacent properties, and information regarding the proposed structure, including dimensions and setbacks from property lines and other buildings.
    The required setbacks, according to the proposals, would be 20 feet from the front yard property line, and 15 feet from the side and rear property lines. Temporary greenhouses could occupy up to 8 percent of the lot area, while other agricultural buildings not used for animals could occupy up to 2 percent, for a total coverage of the lot by buildings of 10 percent.
    The new law would eliminate any potential requirement for screening, such as plantings designed to shield the view of buildings or other structures, and would require the A.R.B. to review any site plan application for active farms within 15 calendar days after its receipt. Earlier this year, the town board vetted a previous proposal to change the site plan requirements for farms, which would have allowed the town Building Department to issue administrative approvals.
    Farmers lauded the idea of making the permit process easier and less expensive, while some suggested that the applicability to farms of the town’s zoning regulations were in fact precluded by state agricultural laws.
    Other speakers at a hearing on the previous proposal said that eliminating planning board review of farm structures could mean that buildings or farmstands could go up that would negatively impact neighbors or the neighborhood.