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PANEL AIRS FARM PLAN, URGES TOWNS TO ACT ON RECOMMENDATIONS

The consultants in charge of assembling a regional farmland protection plan for the towns of Brant, Evans and North Collins handed off the baton Monday night, telling the towns it's their turn to do something with it.

"A plan that sits on the shelf isn't worth developing," said Jerry Cosgrove, the Northeast regional director of the American Farmland Trust. "Resources are available, but only to those who ask. It's a question of will in each of these towns."

The plan is a 105-page document that includes 30 goals for the three towns as a region and 12 to 15 goals each for the towns to help preserve their farms and farmlands. It will be on file in town halls in all three towns for comment until Oct. 15, after which the plan will receive final revisions and be sent back to the towns.

Sandy Brant, planning director for the Town of Evans, said her town is already considering three of the recommendations, creating a town right-to-farm law, creating an agriculture zone to make the town more amenable to farming and to work with the other two towns and possibly Eden in developing agri-tourism in the region.

"Then we can broaden it and get into things like the incentives," she said.

North Collins Councilwoman Marianne Vanni said she had already tried to encourage creation of a town right-to-farm law there but had been rebuffed at the Planning Board level.

"They felt it was redundant because there's already a county law and a state law," said Vanni. "We certainly don't need more laws in our community, but a right-to-farm law would tell me that my community, my little corner of the world, is for farmers."

Farmland preservationists have also said that local right-to-farm laws can create a method for solving conflicts between farmers and neighbors before they need to go to county or state levels.

According to David Kay of the Cornell University Local Government Program, who created the Geographic Information System computerized mapping system that goes with it, the three towns will be able to get continued use from it, depending on how much they want to use it.

"They can use it for general purposes, to see how many parcels will be affected if you put a water line here, for example," he said. "Or more specifically, such as in site-plan review, where the Planning Board can see if a parcel is in an area that's a high priority for preservation or not."

Cosgrove said one of the major accomplishments of the program may be bringing the three towns together.

"Collaborating with your neighboring towns is something that's rarely done in New York State," he said.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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