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Attorney General approves town’s right to farm bylaw

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PEPPERELL — Attorney General Thomas Reilly has approved language of the Right to Farm bylaw adopted by residents in an unanimous vote at the Oct. 24 special town meeting. This places the law officially on the books.

Reilly’s approval arrived in late December. All town meeting articles must be approved by the attorney general’s office before they become legal and binding. The Right to Farm bylaw had been submitted by petition.

Last October’s vote put Pepperell on the list of 24 Mass. communities that have adopted adaptations of a model bylaw developed by the Department of Agricultural Resources in cooperation with the attorney general’s office. The bylaw is intended to create public awareness of agriculturist’s needs in a suburbanized environment.

The model bylaw, which was modified by Pepperell to a small degree, contains several components that support the future of agriculture. It does not, however, change existing zoning bylaws or any other previously existing local regulations.

The purpose of the recently-approved bylaw is to encourage the pursuit of agriculture, to promote agriculturally-based economic activities and to assist in the protection of Pepperell farmlands.

In the case of a newly-established neighborhood built around a farm, it recognizes the farm as a pre-existing entity and negates the validity of, for example, legal complaints made about odor or activity emanating from the farm.

The definition includes the keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise and the keeping or raising of poultry, swine, cattle, ratites (emus, ostriches etc.), camelids (llamas, camels) and other animals including bees and fur bearing animals for food or other agricultural purposes.

All farming activity is subject to the zoning bylaw or any legally instituted town or state agency sponsored regulation.

The bylaw covers activities considered to be an accessory use to farming.

Farming rights are extended to include the right of slow-moving vehicles to use public roads, operation of a roadside stand or farmer’s market, repair and storage of equipment and relocation of earth on farm property.

The bylaw establishes a yet to be formed five-member Agricultural Advisory Board, appointed by selectmen, that acts as a spokesman for the farming community. The board can respond to any request for information from any town board or committee and is empowered to educate the public about agriculture in the town.

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