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Proposed zoning changes in the Town of Canton. See full-size map link below
Proposed zoning changes in the Town of Canton. See full-size map link below

Concerns about right-to-farm in town rezoning plan

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The town of Canton planning board wants to clear the air about its efforts to create more land for housing. The board is looking to rezone some areas from agricultural to residential. And there are concerns it's an attempt to take away the right-to-farm from these properties. Julie Grant reports.

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Julie Grant
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Mike Morgan says there’s a lot of false information flying around Canton about the rezoning proposals.  Morgan is chair of the Canton town planning board. He says the town and village last created a vision statement in 2008. That vision specifically calls not for big box stores, but to be a great place to live.

“So with that in mind, is why we’re looking to expand strictly residential zones, just to give people greater flexibility.  If we’re going to say, ‘hey, we know we’re not attract business, but if you move into the area, move to Canton.’  They feel we should have more areas that are just for residential for people to choose from.”

Among other things, the plan extends about 8 areas currently zoned as agricultural to residential. 

Jason Pfotenhauer is deputy director of the St. Lawrence County Planning office. 

He says the County has a problem with this.

“Because it would be changing land that is now currently rural in nature, and in some cases actively farmed, changing it to a residential use that does not permit agricultural uses.”

That includes raising chickens, keeping horses, cows, goats, and other farm animals, on properties less than 3 acres. 

The most controversial rezoning extends housing on Judson Street Road, the Ames Road, and the Finnegan Road.  We drove past a corn field tilled for planting.

“There’s some great agricultural land here and also some residential. They’re coexisting now, there’s no reason why they can’t continue to coexist.”

New York state has what are called agricultural districts, meant to protect and promote farming.

Pfotenhauer says much of the land under consideration for rezoning falls in one of these district. 

Town planning board chair Mike Morgan is well aware that these lands can’t be taken out of the ag district until 2014.   

“You can’t just say we want to take this chunk of land if it’s being used for agriculture you can’t take it. And we don’t want to.  The idea is to reclaim land out of the ag district that is not being used for any agricultural purpose, whether it’s livestock or crop, and hasn’t been for some time, and to convert that to residential.  And to do it in an orderly fashion.”

The town planning board meets tonight at 7. They can’t vote on the rezoning until the public has a chance to comment on the proposal.

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