Local farmers want Warwick's zoning code left the way it is and will urge the Town Board to reject the new proposed code when it comes up for public hearings this month.
This idea was cheered very loudly at an Oct. 29 meeting sponsored by LOCAL (Landowners Opposed to Confiscation of All Land) to come up with ways to fight what they feel will have very restrictive farmland proposals in the new code.
The Town Hall meeting which drew over 200 people featured a guest speaker, Carol W. LaGrasse, the president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, who comes from Stony Creek, N.Y. in the Adirondacks. Her topic was, "Farmers have private property rights: what does this mean?"
LaGrasse said she was opposed to any kind of zoning calling it unconstitutional and she called conservation easements such as the Purchase Development Rights (PDR) "a wolf in sheep's clothing." She noted that they place the productive future in grave doubt and are eroding the American tradition of freedom, private property ownership.
Asked what she thought of Transferring Development Rights (TDR), LaGrasse described it as "one of the most confusing ways to take away your property rights," adding that it could become "the damnedest mess you ever heard of."
Victor Ludmerer of Masker Orchards said the farmers want to see the zoning stay the way it is. Increasing lot sizes from two to ten acres only reduces the farmer's borrowing power.
"Reducing market values of the land is the fastest way to force the farmer to sell," Ludmerer said.
George Verno, also of Masker's, noted that with no land equity value, the farmer will have no way to borrow $100,000 to tide him over until his crop can be sold.
LaGrasse said that two no votes are needed on the Town Board to turn down a new zoning code or else the farmers will have to hire a lawyer.
In the audience was Councilman Leonard DeBuck, an advocate of zoning change, who said an excellent example of no zoning is Wickham Village. He said the Town wants to see farming profitable to promote agritourism and knows the importance of profitable farms in negotiating bank loans.
"We are concerned about your concerns," DeBuck said but declined to answer LaGrasse when she asked if he had done everything possible to see that there will be no changes in the zoning.
Barbara White said that in 1957 Warwick had 16,230 population, a time when the forecast was that the town would hit 50,000 by 1980. Today the population is at 30,100, she pointed out.
Kim Corkum, who arranged LaGrasse's appearance in the town, noted that her 1985 high school graduating class had 215 members. Predictions that the class size would double by now have not happened.
Carol W. LaGrasse's full speech "Farmers Have Property Rights - What Does This Mean?"