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Hearing addresses right to farm

October 01, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners will vote later this month on whether to approve an ordinance that would protect the agricultural community from neighbors' complaints about farming odors and related concerns.

The County Commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed Right to Farm Ordinance Tuesday night at the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. Social Hall.

Under the ordinance, purchasers and users of properties near farms would be notified of the potential inconveniences of those farms, including noises, odors, dust, flies, chemicals, smoke and vibration that may occur during any 24-hour period.

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Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners will vote on the ordinance on Oct. 21.

About five people spoke in favor of the ordinance Tuesday night. No one spoke against it.

The Washington County Health Department receives about 25 complaints about farming practices a year, Laurie Bucher, director of Environmental Health, said in July.

She said most of the complaints have dealt with odors, but that some residents have voiced concerns about farmers spreading fertilizer on windy days, causing the material to get on their homes or on their clothes hanging out on the line.

According to the proposed ordinance, if a resident has a complaint about the operations of a farm, a five-member Agricultural Reconciliation Board would hear the concern before the matter ends up in court.

The board would be made up of a member of the Washington County Farm Bureau, the Maryland Cooperative Extension, a member of the agribusiness community, a resident and an attorney, the ordinance states.

The Washington County Farm Bureau proposed a similar ordinance four years ago but action was never taken.

"So, to the citizens of Washington County, this has been a long, ongoing thing ..." said Priscilla Harsh of the Farm Bureau.

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