Town Meeting affirms Kent’s farm-friendly philosophy

KENT — Residents attending a town meeting Thursday, Jan. 18, voted to approve strengthening changes to an existing farm-friendly ordinance to ensure that farmers and their farming operations would not be subject to nuisance complaints.

Although a “Right to Farm” ordinance had been in place since 2015, the Board of Selectmen had received complaints from a homeowner objecting to ongoing farming activities on the farm that operates next door to his home. In response, the selectmen asked the Conservation Commission to examine the ordinance to strengthen its specificity so that it would definitively protect farmers from nuisance complaints.

Reviewing the recommended changes to the former “Right to Farm” ordinance, Conservation Chairman Connie Manes said that the title of the relevant section would be changed to “Protection of Farmers from Nuisance Claims.” Additional changes to the wording of the second paragraph in the ordinance define specific types of such disallowed nuisance complaints to include noisy roosters, odor, pigs, dust, other animal noises, and agricultural machinery including tractors. Manes explained that the wording changes are intended to clarify the purpose of the ordinance.

The issue had first arisen a few years ago when the selectmen received a resident’s complaint about noisy roosters at the farm interfering with the ability to work from home during the pandemic.

First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer noted that there is presently no other nuisance ordinance on the books for the town. An example that was discussed was a neighbor’s boombox operating on high volume.

“This is the start of an ordinance,” Lindenmayer observed.

Voters went on to unanimously approved three appointments to the Park and Recreation Commission. Appointed were Naomi Joseph, Rufus deRham (completing an unexpired term), and Karen Iannucci.

The remainder of the town meeting considered the town’s draft of the capital expenditure plan, looking ahead five years, giving residents an early opportunity to understand the plan and proposed changes. There will be another public hearing in the spring during the budget approval season, offering an additional opportunity for comment.

The capital plan actually looks forward to a 10-year horizon, Lindenmayer explained, but the five-year portion is part of the budget process. The drafted plan is being furnished to the Board of Finance for its review.

“The selectmen have met with each department,” Lindenmayer said. “We try to listen and understand, and we generally reach an agreement with each department,” he added, explaining that such agreements might involve simply moving requests around.

Selectwoman Lynn Worthington explained that the town meeting would be focusing on capital spending in the year 2029, four years out from the present budget year.

Lindenmayer noted that the Board of Finance had met with the selectmen and determined that 15% of the annual expense budget would be directed to the capital plan.

“There is no policy governing capital planning, only guidelines,” Lindenmayer said.

“It’s not a rigid document,” Board of Finance chair Nancy O’Dea-Wyrick agreed, adding that it’s like an old-fashioned Christmas Club, for those old enough to understand the reference.

Reviewing each town department in turn, Lindenmayer led discussion. Residents sought information on fire department equipment replacement, opening a lengthy discussion of new or used, and moving toward hybrid in time.

Discussion of the Park and Recreation department was led by Worthington, who said that she had not agreed with some of the selectmen’s changes, as they focused on 2029. Changes included elimination of basketball for Kent Commons Park. However, a splash pad was still in for Kent Commons at a cost of $250,000.

“A splash pad is like a big sprinkler,” Worthington explained, with Lindenmayer adding that an ARPA grant of $100,000 had been awarded toward the project, significantly reducing the cost.

Returned to the budget was $25,000 to cover needed drainage work along state route 341.

Conditions at Emery Park were of concern to residents, some of whom asked about the pool that is now closed and who noted that there is funding in place for development of a Master Plan for the parks.

Worthington said that when there is a new Park and Recreation director in place, that department will need to come back to the town to request reallocation of funding.

Long discussion ensued about the handling of unexpended funds within the capital budget, and how those funds might be reallocated, along with the need for specifics in the highway and bridge repair costs.

“This year we will create a calendar for the town website showing planned road and bridge improvement projects in a timeline,” Lindenmayer said.

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