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Newstead sets farm law hearing

The Newstead Town Board on Monday set two public hearings -- on a local Right to Farm law and an increase in the senior citizen property tax exemption -- for Dec. 10.

Meeting in a work session at Town Hall, the board heard from Carl Klingenschmitt, chairman of the Conservation Advisory Council, who said the proposed Right to Farm law has been reviewed favorably by that group and has been circulated in the farming community.

Supervisor David Cummings said, "The general feeling is that we have to protect the farms . . . they've been here forever."

He added that no formal action will be taken by the board until the new year.

In October, the board was asked by Hans Mobius, president of the Erie County Farm Bureau, to adopt such a local law, noting that 16 of Erie County's towns have done so.

The board has been presented with a petition signed by 50 farm owners in Newstead backing the request, according to Mary Britton, chairwoman of the Newstead Right to Farm Committee.

The other hearing will be on the town's proposal to increase the income level at which senior citizens are eligible for a property tax tax exemption. The base level would be from $15,500 to $21,500 and would reach $27,200 based on household size.

Originally, the board was considering a $2,500 increase, but several senior citizens said at a public hearing earlier this fall that was not large enough and noted that Newstead's exemption was lower than several adjoining towns.

The Village of Akron and the Akron School District also have informally backed the higher figure. If passed by all three bodies, the change would apply to school taxes collected in October 2008 and to town and village taxes collected in 2009.

Councilmen Mark Decker and Thomas George were both absent Monday. Councilwoman-elect Cheryl Esposito was in attendance.

In other business, the board:

*Learned that a local private foundation has approved a $20,500 grant for renovations to the former Denio Library, including the restrooms and some basement work.

*Agreed informally that the town's assistant dog control officer cannot carry a pistol in performance of her duties as she has requested.

*Set Dec. 27 as the final meeting of the year, at a time to be announced. The swearing in of Esposito, Cummings and Councilman Justin Rooney -- the latter two were re-elected this month -- will be on Jan. 3 and the reorganization meeting will be Jan. 7.

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