[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of Williamstown 5-16-2006, Art. 42. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This chapter was originally adopted as Chapter 155 but renumbered to maintain the organizational structure of the Code.
The purpose and intent of this bylaw is to state with emphasis the right to farm accorded to all citizens of the commonwealth under Article 97, of the Constitution, and all state statutes and regulations thereunder, including but not limited to MGL c.40A, § 3, Paragraph 1; c.90, § 9, c.111, § 125A; and c.128 § 1A. We the citizens of Williamstown restate and republish these rights pursuant to the Town's authority conferred by Article 89 of the Articles of Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution ("Home Rule Amendment").
This general bylaw encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculture-based economic opportunities, and protects farmlands within the Town of Williamstown by allowing agricultural uses and related activities to function with minimal conflict with abutters and Town agencies. This bylaw shall apply to all jurisdictional areas within the Town.
The word "farm" shall include any parcel or contiguous parcels of land, or water bodies used for the primary purpose of commercial agriculture, or accessory thereto.
The words "farming" or "agriculture" or their derivatives shall include, but not be limited to the following:
Farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil;
Production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural, viticultural, or horticultural commodities;
Growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, and any other forestry or lumbering operations;
Raising of livestock, including horses;
Keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise; and keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle, ratites (such as emus, ostriches and rheas) and camelids (such as llamas and camels), and other domesticated animals for food and other agricultural purposes, including bees and fur-bearing animals.
"Farming" shall encompass activities including, but not limited to, the following:
Operation and transportation of slow-moving farm equipment over roads within the Town;
Control of pests, including, but not limited to, insects, weeds, predators and disease organisms of plants and animals;
Application of manure, fertilizers and pesticides;
Conducting agriculture-related educational and farm-based recreational activities, including agri-tourism, provided that the activities are related to marketing the agricultural output or services of the farm;
Processing and packaging of the agricultural output of the farm and the operation of a farmers' market or farm stand, including signage thereto;
Maintenance, repair, or storage of seasonal equipment, or apparatus owned or leased by the farm owner or manager used expressly for the purpose of propagation, processing, management, or sale of the agricultural products; and
Non-farm relocation of earth and the clearing of ground for farming operations.
The right to farm is hereby recognized to exist within the Town of Williamstown. The above-described agricultural activities may occur on holidays, weekdays, and weekends by night or day and shall include the attendant incidental noise, odors, dust, and fumes associated with normally accepted agricultural practices. It is hereby determined that whatever impact may be caused to others through the normal practice of agriculture is more than offset by the benefits of farming to the neighborhood, community, and society in general. The benefits and protections of this bylaw are intended to apply exclusively to those commercial agricultural and farming operations and activities conducted in accordance with generally accepted agricultural practices. Moreover, nothing in this Right to Farm Bylaw shall be deemed as acquiring any interest in land, or as imposing any land use regulation, which is properly the subject of state statute, regulation, or local zoning law.
In order to allow prospective purchasers to make informed decisions prior to a real estate transaction and to promote harmony between farmers and their new neighbors after a transaction, the Town of Williamstown requests selling landholders and/or their agents (and assigns) provide written notice to prospective purchasers substantially as follows:
"It is the policy of the Town of Williamstown to conserve, protect and encourage the maintenance and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food, and other agricultural products, and for the keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise and keeping of other animals for food and other agricultural purposes, including bees and fur-bearing animals, and also for its natural and ecological value. This disclosure notification is to inform buyers that the property they are about to acquire lies within a Town where farming activities occur. Such farming activities may include, but are not limited to, activities that cause noise, dust and odors. Purchasing, and henceforth occupying, land within Williamstown means that one should expect and accept such conditions as a norm and necessary aspect of living in Williamstown."
Written notification may occur in one of several ways, including but not limited to a disclosure form or addendum to a purchase and sale agreement and should include an acknowledgment by the buyer that they have received notification.
Within 30 days after this bylaw becomes effective the Board of Selectmen shall make available for use by selling landowners or their agents (and assigns) copies of example written notifications.
Within 30 days after this bylaw becomes effective the Board of Selectmen shall prominently place in the Town Hall and on the Town Web site the above disclosure.
If any part of this bylaw is for any reason held to be unconstitutional or invalid, such decision shall not affect the remainder of this bylaw. The Town of Williamstown hereby declares the provisions of this bylaw to be severable.