The town has not yet addressed the issue of wind energy, but commission Chair Harvey Buford said it was worth exploring, because turbines use less land than solar panels. Also attending the meeting was Hannah Morini, a project developer with Wind Energy Development LLC of North Kingstown. Morini answered technical questions about the site requirements of wind turbines and how they could produce significant revenue for the farmers on whose land they are built, as well as for the town.
HOPKINTON – The Hopkinton Conservation Commission held a special meeting Thursday to hear suggestions from farmers on possible amendments to the town’s out-of-date farm viability ordinance.
In the audience were several farmers, plus Ken Ayars, chief of the Division of Agriculture of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management; Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Hopkinton, Richmond; and Town Council members Thomas Buck and Barbara Capalbo.
Gary Marsh, a dairy farm owner who chaired the meeting, explained that farmers needed additional sources of income in order to keep their farms, an issue the town has attempted to address by passing ordinances regulating solar-generating stations on farms of different sizes.
“We’ve got a number of people here,” Marsh said. “Do they have any ideas of what they’d like to see changed?”
Two farmers said they had experienced difficulties with the town regarding signage and equipment storage.
Jay and Judy Gray, who own Festival Farm, said they would like to see the minimum 5-acre farm size reduced to 2 acres. Jay Gray complained that he wasn’t allowed to put up a sign advertising his vegetables because his property, where he grows and sells produce and keeps farm animals, is too small to be considered a farm.
“I put a sign on Route 3 that said ‘Festival Farm,’ and the town zoning officer came down and said ‘You’ve got to remove that sign. It doesn’t conform.’ I said ‘What do I need for that sign to conform?’ and he said, ‘If you were a farm, you could leave it, but you’re not a farm because you don’t have 5 acres.’”
Tom Koczkodan, who owns a farm on Arcadia Road, said the town had told him he couldn’t keep farm equipment on visible parts of his land.
“A lot of farms have trailers they use for storing hay or other materials, and the town of Hopkinton gives a lot of hassles on tractor-trailers parked for storage for farm use, you know? I have a lot of problems with the town of Hopkinton with my trailers. They want them off the property,” he said.
The discussion turned to renewable energy, which, in recent years, has shown promising income potential for farmers while preserving open space.
Marsh, who is planning to have a small solar array on two of his 260 acres, said he was also interested in installing wind turbines.
“Windmills, along with the solar, is a big plus for farmers like us,” he said. “Dairy farming is so labor-intensive, you’ve got to figure out ways to make money to support the farm, without you putting much labor into it.”
The town has not yet addressed the issue of wind energy, but commission Chair Harvey Buford said it was worth exploring, because turbines use less land than solar panels.
Also attending the meeting was Hannah Morini, a project developer with Wind Energy Development LLC of North Kingstown. Morini answered technical questions about the site requirements of wind turbines and how they could produce significant revenue for the farmers on whose land they are built, as well as for the town.
“It pays about $4,500 a month to the landowner …. The town would get $7,500 a year in taxes,” she said.
Capalbo said it was important for the council to understand what farmers needed in order to keep their land and prevent it from being sold for housing developments.
“It’s a discussion with the farmers to see what they would need, where they have problems,” she said. “The council may be able to adapt the ordinance so that it becomes more 21st-century farming, rather than the 1800s.”
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