ANALYSIS of FARMLAND PRESERVATION ZONING in TOWN OF SHERMAN

Kevin Struck, Community Development Educator

From 2013 – 2015, Kevin worked with Town of Sherman officials to create a custom farmland preservation zoning ordinance. Since the strategies within this new ordinance had not been tried before, the state agency that oversees farmland preservation certification and tax credits for local farmers approved it with a contingency of a 5-year “check in” to see whether the ordinance was working as envisioned.

As requested by the agency, Kevin gathered together records and aerial imagery of rezonings occurring in the farmland preservation district from July 2015 to July 2020. During that period, no land legitimately zoned A-1, which is Sherman’s primary agricultural district, was rezoned out of farmland preservation. A total of 19.5 acres (0.1% of the 15,800 A-1 acres in the Town) was rezoned to A-2, which is still in farmland preservation but for small farms, such as hobby farms and niche organics. A total of 52 acres was rezoned to A-1-PR, which is a stricter farmland preservation district that prohibits residences and requires a supermajority vote of the Town Board to be rezoned in the future.

Besides any rezonings completely out of farmland preservation, the state agency was especially interested in the conversions from A-1 to A-2. Would the new A-2 lot disrupt the existing larger farm and/or would it contain nothing but a house, with all future agricultural potential gone? An analysis by Kevin of the four new lots, comparing 2009 aerial imagery with 2019 imagery (“before” and “after”), showed the following:

Lot 1 5 acres A-1 to A-2: New home — 3.5 acres no longer being grazed; 1.5 acres of lot still open
(Also, 15 acres A-1 to A-1-PR)
Lot 2 5 acres A-1 to A-2: New home — 1.5 acres no longer being cultivated; 3.5 acres of lot still open
(Also, 15 acres A-1 to A-1-PR)
Lot 3 4.85 acres A-1 to A-2: New address assigned but no home yet
(Also, 22.01 A-1 to A-1-PR)
Lot 4 4.66 acres A-1 to A-2: Simply separated off existing farmhouse and farm buildings

All four lots were at the edge of farm fields and in most cases close to the road so as to avoid disrupting the remainder of the agricultural operation. “Lot 2” is shown below. The ordinance seems to be working.