N.H. Senate Bill 354 Re-defining agritourism

To the Editor:

Senate Bill 354 is a proposed 2014 legislative bill to redefine agritourism. The passage of this bill would circumvent zoning regulations and has the potential to negatively impact the rural character of the state's farms, land and communities.

The current law, RSA 21:34-a, clearly defines farming, agriculture, and its optional subordinate activity of agritourism.and has worked well for years. The law connects agritourism to the farm's activity, and requires the activity to be smaller than the farm. It also does not preempt local zoning, therefore protecting neighbor's rights to the quiet enjoyment of their property.

Proposed Senate Bill 354 would change all of that. Essentially, it is an anti-farm bill. It removes the qualifiers of being ancillary to farm operations as well as having a nexus (connection) between the farm and the agritourism activity. It would define agritourism as agriculture. The 2007 Legislature considered this, but rejected it because it could circumvent most zoning protection for neighboring landowners.

Most New Hampshire communities allow agriculture in many zoning districts, and properly so. We want to protect and encourage our precious agricultural activities. The current law does that. There are multitudes of flourishing agritourism activities all across the state that provide appropriate activities, all falling within the current RSA 21:34-a. The proposed legislation is simply an attempt to circumvent local zoning regulations and allow unregulated commercial development on agricultural lands.

If you have concerns or questions, please contact your state representative, your senator, land conservation agencies and local land use boards.

Spencer Bennett and Linda McGuire

Henniker, N.H.

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