This bill would allow farmers to continue to do anything that is for “bona fide agricultural production” under existing state law and regulations, which includes construction of buildings and other structures, despite having sold the right to develop their land to the public. These structures would pose a significant impact on land and water resources, which is why it is critical that changes to the PDR go to the voters.
Additionally, this bill makes an egregious attempt to overrule the wisdom of Suffolk County voters and the opinions of the courts that have both stated what is permissible for agricultural lands under the PDR. A recent New York State Supreme Court ruling struck down a local law that changed the definition (Long Island Pine Barrens Society, Inc. C Suffolk County Legislature 2016 NY Slip Op 26321). The judge ruled that changes in the definition could only be done through another public referendum; however, a March 2018 ruling from the Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled otherwise. This case is currently going through the appeals process, and this bill would overstep that process.
By redefining use terms and overruling the will of voters, the bill undermines the trust of voters who supported one thing on the ballot only to see it modified elsewhere.
The voters of Suffolk County want clean air, water and sustainable communities. If the agricultural community seeks to redefine use of land, the question should be posed to the voters who have already spoken.
This bill amends section 247 of the general municipal law to allow acquired lands pursuant to that section to construct buildings or structures for agricultural production.