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.
This bill’s legislative findings and intent also misrepresents the claims of the Pine Barrens Society in the case of Long Island Pine Barrens Society, Inc. v. Suffolk County Legislature, 159 A.D.3d 805 (N.Y. App. Div. 2018), suggesting the Society opposed certain uses, such as fencing and irrigations systems. The lawsuit was brought to challenge the development of giant greenhouses and other vast structures that would permanently alter the landscape and soil without the public’s consent, not the use of land for agricultural production.
In March 2018, the Supreme Court Appellate Division overruled the New York State Supreme Court decision, which struck down a local law that changed the use definition and found that changes in the definition could only be done through another public referendum (Long Island Pine Barrens Society, Inc. C Suffolk County Legislature 2016 NY Slip Op 26321). An appeal to the Appellate Division was denied.
This bill by redefining use terms makes an egregious attempt to overrule the wisdom and trust of Suffolk County voters who supported one thing on the ballot only to see it modified by the legislature. 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.