Criteria for districts criticized

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday rescinded a resolution approved last month that set criteria for the county’s agricultural districts after hearing objections from former and current supervisors.

Former Broadalbin Supervisor Lee Hollenbeck, a spokesman for the Fulton County Farm Bureau, expressed displeasure with the resolution. He spoke during the board’s meeting at the County Office Building.

The board on Feb. 11 passed a resolution 17-1, with two supervisors absent, establishing review criteria for inclusion of property into the county’s agricultural districts. Owners located in such state-designated districts can access certain benefits for their agricultural interests.

Criteria established by the board last month included these reasons for consideration of applications to add to a county agricultural district:

The property must be used in agricultural production or be part of a farm operation.

The property must be able to obtain one or more of the benefits afforded to properties in certain sections of state Agriculture and Markets Law.

The property must be compliant with local, state and federal rules and regulations and be free from town, state and federal violations.

The property must not be delinquent for county, school or local property taxes.

The property must not pose a potential nuisance to adjacent properties.

Hollenbeck told the board the resolution established by the board in February has “unneeded regulation.” He said an example of that would be the criteria requiring the property owners to obtain “one or more of the benefits” afforded through state law. He said there also shouldn’t be criteria requiring owner not be delinquent in taxes.

“These districts were established to help farmers, not to make sure taxes are paid,” Hollenbeck said.

Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Richard Ottalagano said the criteria needs “better wording.”

Broadalbin Supervisor Joseph DiGiacomo made a motion to “reconsider” the approved resolution. A motion to reconsider and put the resolution back on the table passed 13-6. That was followed by another motion that passed 17-2 to send the criteria back to committee.

“A couple of things in there were trouble to me,” Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery said.

He asked if the issue could be revisited by the Economic Development and Environment Committee.

“As a city person, I’m not familiar with this,” Callery said.

Mayfield Supervisor Richard Argotsinger said criteria stating property can’t pose a potential nuisance to neighbors is “too broad.”

“I think it needs to be rewritten, basically,” he said.

Stratford Supervisor Robert E. Johnson Jr. said many farm operations are “mom and pop” operations and don’t need a lot of regulations.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron thought the board should give the resolution that passed in February one year to be on the books.

“You have to be very careful on recalls,” he stated. “This was an attempt to get some regulation here.”

Bleecker Supervisor David Howard said the resolution passed in February might be “fatally flawed,” and supervisors “risk nothing by taking it back at this point.”

He said the problem he had with the resolution is the criteria requiring agricultural district properties not be a “potential nuisance” to adjacent properties. Howard asked what defines a nuisance.