Story by Lourice Angie
The Warwick Town Board held a public hearing on Thurs., Oct. 11 before the start of their regular monthly meeting to consider proposed introductory Local Law No. 9 entitled “A Local Law amending Chapter 164 Zoning.”
Before the hearing was opened to public comment, Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton explained that amending Chapter 164 Zoning, arose from a moratorium that was created by applications to the APO (Agricultural Protection Overlay) zone, where landowners who are part of the APO could apply to the Town Board for a permit that allows them to do a number of things on their properties.
“This was created back in 2002 in an effort to continue the desired protection and preservation of farming and agriculture in the Town of Warwick” said Sweeton.
Through the APO landowners are allowed to add a farm market, and receive a density bonus for an additional lot, etc. Sweeton said it has proved to be successful to the properties that have gone into it. These active farms continue to farm and they continue to keep their land out of development.
Supervisor Sweeton added that the APO has done a great job of preserving farms that continue to produce and add to the economy while keeping development under control. The Board believes these are all positive objectives for the community, however the Board finds that some applications to the APO aren’t in true spirit of that, so they placed a moratorium on all new applications.
The moratorium allows the Board time to clearly look at the uses existing in the zoning, including different processes and classifications. Through the comprehensive plan, the Town Board looks for further ways and ideas to keep farmers farming. Sweeton explains that this as part of the “agritourism economy.” Many local farms such as the Brady Farm, Emmerich Tree Farm, Jack Pennings Farm, and Pioneer Farms are now hosting weddings and various events.
“We need to keep farmers farming and we’re looking for ways to manage that with minimal impact on its neighbors,” said Sweeton.
Sweeton stated that several farmers have generally been looking for ways to work in conjunction with their neighbors. One of the changes proposed by the Board is a seasonal yearly permit that would be available to those who meet the criteria, do not own an active dairy farm, winery or orchard, but rather use their space for rent with minimal impact to their neighbors.
Residents Attend Two-Hour Long Hearing
Nearly 50 residents and local farm owners attended the two-hour long hearing. Some of the residents who live near the Warwick Valley Winery, Pennings Farm Market, and the Emmerich Tree Farm shared similar concerns saying that some of these local farms were producing more than just the agricultural resources that make the community of Warwick a great place to live.
Each person received an opportunity to speak before the Town Board. Many became frustrated as they said that the growing noise and traffic is generating threatening conditions and has compromised their quality of life.
Mike DeFini, a 35-year resident of Little York Rd., who lives a half mile away from the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, addressed the Board saying he doesn’t have an issue with people making money, but he doesn’t need to be inconvenienced either.
“I can hear the music from the winery as if it’s in our backyard. This goes on Saturday and Sunday. I have to get up and go to work every morning and all I’m asking for is a little respect,” said DeFini.
The current Town noise ordinance considers noise levels on or below 75dB or less acceptable. Residents argued that the noise and music being played is above 75dB and that it’s just too loud.
Jane Newton, who has owned the Pioneer Farm since 1981 said, “For over 270 years it’s been a dairy farm. We want to make sure that the farm remains a farm. We have 80 acres of hay that also supply the remaining dairy farms around Warwick. Our taxes and insurance come to $45,000 a year and our mortgage payments are $56,000 a year. I’m retired without another form of income so we do rent out the property and we started hosting weddings. I have nothing but sympathy for the people that have to listen to the music on Saturday night. I know it’s a problem, but we’ve done all we can to talk to our neighbors and tell them why we’re doing it, most people have been very understanding and Mayor Newhard says he hasn’t received complaints from his constituents. We make sure music is off by 11 p.m.”
Ray Woloszak, who lives on Warwick Turnpike, about a mile and a half from ShopRite and Pennings Farm, contacted the Town Board through written correspondence, asking that they consider new codes for amplified music. Woloszak and his wife, Rosemarie, also attended the public hearing.
“Do something to help us, this is not Warwick anymore. In my neighborhood the so-called farms have become a dispensary for alcohol with music playing until 12 to 1 a.m.,” said Woloszak.
Other residents complained about the amount of heavy traffic coming through their neighborhoods, including tractors trailers, buses and a large amount of excess garbage, that present dangers to the children living there.
Joseph Grizzanti, who owns the Warwick Valley Winery, along with his son and partner, said, “There’s a tremendous upside for all of us in this room. We have to as a community come up with creative solutions so we can have our land and we don’t have school taxes going in a linear curve. We don’t do weddings because of your concerns. We don’t have music after 5:30 p.m. because we hear your concerns.”
Grizzanti added, “As far as the traffic, we are willing to pay for speed bumps or pay for policing on the street. I would be devastated if anything happened to a child on that street. It’s not worth any amount of money. As a community and town let’s get together and figure out what to do about speeding and traffic. If 75 dB is too loud we will change it.”
During the hearing, the Board listened to everyone and did not act upon any of the discussion at the public hearing. They are required to receive comment by the Town Planning Board and Orange County Planning Board before any changes are made. The public hearing will remain open and the Board will be accepting written correspondence and emails for the next twelve days.
“We are going to take all of this information into consideration and see where we go. Understand that the changes proposed have been designed perhaps correctly or incorrectly to try to get a handle on some of the issues brought up tonight. We’ll try to see if there’s ways to improve what we’ve done,” said Supervisor Sweeton.
Warwick Humane Society Celebrates 50 Years
The Board then conducted the regular meeting with Councilman Floyd DeAngelo reporting that the Warwick Valley Humane Society (WVHS) will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the shelter.
A special celebratory brunch will be held at the Landmark Inn in Warwick on Sun., Nov. 4 from 12 to 3 p.m. by reservation only. The cost is $50 per person. Proceeds from the event will benefit the animal shelter’s much needed rebuild project to expand the facility and provide proper ventilation and housing for the homeless pets.
To make a reservation, make checks payable to the Warwick Valley Humane Society and mail to P.O. Box 61, Warwick, NY 10990 on or before Thurs., Nov 1. With birthday brunch written in the memo.
Police & Clerks Report
Councilman Floyd DeAngelo reported that for the month of September, the Warwick Police Department had a total of 1,728 calls throughout the entire Town.
Clerk Eileen Astorino reported that fees collected for the month of September were $14,769.34 and the fees paid out were $15,565.96
Community Preservation Fund (CPF) receipts for the month of September were $80,083.98, which brings the current fund balance to $2,617,946.41.
Public Hearings Scheduled
A public was scheduled for Thurs., Oct 25 at 7:15 p.m. in the Warwick Town Hall for the adoption of proposed introductory local #12 of 2018 to exceed the two percent property tax cap. Also scheduled the same day is a public hearing entitled, “Acquisition of Development Rights.”
Successful Pine Island Pumpkin Fest
Councilman Russell Kowal announced that the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce hosted another very successful Pumpkinfest event on Mon., Oct 8. Over 600 children attended the event despite the light rain on that day. Kowal thanked the Town DPW on behalf of the Pine Island Chamber for all the work they did in helping with preparations. The pumpkins were donated by several local farmers. Kowal encourages the community to continue enjoying Town parks and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage this time of year.
Next Town Board Meeting
The next Town Board meeting will be held on Thurs., Oct 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Warwick Town Hall, located at 132 Kings Hwy. in Warwick NY.