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Proposed changes to Newstead agribusiness law bring no public comment

A public hearing before the Newstead Town Board meeting on proposed changes to the town’s agribusiness law brought no comments from the handful of residents in attendance Monday evening.

The measure introducing the changes, which has been in the works for over a year, aims to make the town friendlier to agribusiness and agritourism, Supervisor David L. Cummings said.

“This is what we’ve come up with,” he said. “It may not be perfect, but it certainly has some changes that we think need to be put in place at this point in time.”

The law would allow agribusiness and agritourism to operate in residential-agriculture zoned districts, as well as allow pole barns for storage through a permanent special-use permit.

The board had originally intended to vote on the law during Monday’s meeting but decided to delay the vote to allow for feedback from Erie County, Cummings said.

“They don’t have to approve it; they just have to comment,” he said. “If they have something we hadn’t thought about or whatever, we would review that so we could make the plan even better.”

Cummings left the door open to further alterations to the law in the future. “If we need to make more changes, we certainly will,” he said.

The town expects to hear from the county by Thursday, and may vote on the law during the board’s Dec. 29 meeting.

For nine-year Councilman Justin M. Rooney, Monday evening’s meeting marked the end of the road. Rooney, who did not seek re-election, received a round of applause from fellow board members, town employees and those in attendance at the end of the meeting.

Rooney said he “most likely” will not be able to make the town’s next meeting Dec. 29.

“He’s been a tremendous asset over the last nine years,” Cummings said. “It has not always been a smooth road, but it has always been a road in the right direction.”

“Or the left,” Rooney said with a laugh, in a nod to his Democratic politics.

Rooney grew emotional as he thanked the board members and staff, while acknowledging that he didn’t accomplish everything he had hoped. “If you do it right, you believe in it,” he said. “It’s been a great nine years.”

In a somewhat strange moment during the meeting, two Erie County sheriff’s deputies escorted a man in shackles and an orange jumpsuit into Town Hall for arraignment and had him sit in the audience.

“It happens,” Rooney said.