Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994


October 2001


Farm Worker Housing Exempted from Local Zoning

The New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled 7 - 0 on October 18 that the state's "Right to Farm" laws apply to housing for farm workers.

"Right to Farm" laws were written to protect farming operations from conflicts with suburban style land-use regulations. The New York State Agricultural Commissioner, Nathan Rudgers, had helped argue the farmer's side in this case, saying that all farm buildings, including housing, are part of farm operations. In a decision written by Judge Howard Levine, the top state court agreed with him.

Paul Hafner, Jr., has a fruit and vegetable farm on 800 acres in the town of Lysander in Onondaga County that his family has farmed since 1905. The Town said that he couldn't house workers in the ordinary mobile homes that he already has for them because they have only 900 square feet of floor space, which is less than the 1,100 square feet that the local zoning requires for a single family home. By Lysander's rules, the farmer would have had to spend more than ten times as much as the cost of his single-wide trailers and put in double-wide mobile homes for the workers.

For three harvests, since 1998, Mr. Hafner has housed workers at trailer parks, friends' houses, and even with his own family, because the Town forbade him from using the housing he has. In Judge Levine's decision, however, he wrote that the Town failed to prove that "an absolute ban on single-wide homes was needed" to protect health and safety.

Mr. Hafner's troubles are not necessarily over, however, because he still has to apply to Onondaga County for a building permit.

Mr. Hafner's attorney was Scott Chatfield. The information in this article was drawn from a report by Gannett News Service on October 19, 2001.

Full text of Decision, New York Court of Appeals, October 18, 2001,Town of Lysander, Respondent, v. Paul Hafner, Jr. et al., Appellants: Click Here

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