[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Meeting of the Town of Dartmouth as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Agricultural Commission — See Ch. 12.
[Adopted 5-27-2003, approved 9-4-2003; amended 6-7-2011, approved 9-15-2011 (Art. 85 of the 2011 General By-Laws)]
Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution ensures "the protection of the people in their right to the conservation, development and utilization of the agricultural...and other natural resources." By stating that no local Zoning By-Law may prohibit, unreasonably regulate, or require a special permit for the use of land for the primary purpose of agriculture, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40A, Section 3, Paragraph 1 furthers this goal. Other state laws provide additional protection and incentives for agriculture.
Dartmouth's citizens have demonstrated their support for developing farms and agricultural businesses. In 1998, they voted for a Save Our Farms 2 1/2 Override. This action established the $2.75 million Agricultural Preservation Trust Fund. In 1996 and 2001 Open Space Surveys, they selected open space preservation to meet water needs and protect farmlands as their top priority. Additionally, citizens were most supportive of developing new businesses that used the area's natural resources, such as farming, other agricultural businesses, and aquaculture. Consistent with these citizen, town and state mandates, the Town of Dartmouth is battling to preserve its existing Agricultural lands and businesses in the face of mounting development pressures. This General By-Law section encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculture-based economic opportunities, and protects farmlands within the Town of Dartmouth by allowing agricultural uses to function with minimal conflict with abutters and Town agencies. This section shall apply in all areas in the Town.
The words "farming" or "agriculture" or their derivatives shall include farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural, viticultural, or horticultural commodities, the growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, the raising of livestock including horses, the keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise, the keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle, ratites and camelids and other domesticated animals for food and other agricultural purposes, bees, fur-bearing animals, and any other forestry or lumbering operations. Farming shall encompass activities including, but not limited to, the operation and transportation of large, slow-moving equipment over roads within the Town; the control of pests, including, but not limited to, insects and weeds, predators and diseases of plants and animals; and the application of manure, fertilizers and pesticides. Conducting agriculture-related educational and farm-based recreational activities provided that the activities are related to marketing the agricultural output or services of the farm; and the processing and packaging of the agricultural output of the farm and the operation of a farmer's market or farm stand are included. The on-farm relocation of earth and the clearing of ground for farming operations is included, provided that the movement of soils that are rated as "prime" by the Natural Resources Conservation Service shall not adversely affect agriculture in the Commonwealth. Off-farm earth removal shall be conducted only by Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals in accordance with Article 43 of the Zoning By-Laws.
The word "farm" shall include any parcel or contiguous parcels of land used for the primary purpose of agriculture.
The right to farm is hereby recognized to exist within the Town of Dartmouth. The foregoing 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 these 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 foregoing agricultural activities must be in conformance with applicable Federal, State laws, and local rules and regulations, to which reference is made as to more specific rights and obligations of the agricultural community and the Town.
The provisions of this By-Law shall not apply whenever an impact results from negligence or willful or reckless misconduct in the operation of any such agricultural or farming operation, place, establishment or facility, or any of its appurtenances.
Any person aggrieved by the negligent or reckless operation of a farm may, prior to filing a formal complaint, file a grievance with the Select Board, Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO) or Board of Health, depending upon the nature of the grievance. The filing of the grievance does not suspend the time within which to pursue any other remedies that the aggrieved may have. The ZEO or Select Board shall forward a copy thereof to the Agricultural Commission or its agent, which/who shall review and mediate the grievance and report its findings and recommendations to the appropriate Town authority for further action. The Board of Health, except in cases of imminent danger or public health risk, shall forward a copy of the grievance to the Agricultural Commission or its agent, which/who shall review within an agreed upon timeframe, mediate the grievance and report its findings and recommendations to the Board.