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Ashford weighs in on nuisance and right to farm laws

ASHFORD — The Ashford Town Board invited Attorney Charles Harrigan to its June 12 meeting, to weigh in on discussions regarding the creation of a noise law in Ashford.

According to Harrigan, the board’s wish is to allow itself to prohibit excessive noise and to provide a means of addressing resident complaints.

Town Supervisor Chris Gerwitz said that local police officers have reported that there is currently nothing they can do, when they respond to noise complaints.

Harrigan advised the board to consider purchasing a sound level meter, which would provide a concrete guideline for the law, as opposed to individual determination about noise levels.

“People hear differently,” he said. “You need to have some kind of standard, if you are accusing someone of breaking the law.”

Utilizing a sound level meter would allow a responder to measure the decibels put out by the accused noisemaker and use that number as evidence. According to Harrigan, using such a device would make the town’s proposed law objective, rather than subjective.

“Someone, in front of a judge, could say, ‘They complain about me, all the time.’ You have to have a standard, across the board.”

The attorney said that the new ordinance would not apply to required municipal noise.

Harrigan brought examples of neighboring municipalities’ noise ordinances, for the board to peruse. These ranged from the vague to the very detailed, according to the attorney. “We just have to determine what you, the board, wants to control,” he said.

“But, if we don’t have a machine to register decibels, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” he added. “Any lawyer could shoot that down, in a minute. If we don’t buy a machine, we might as well let this lay.”

The attorney recommended that the board consult with the town planning board, about this issue. Harrigan will attend the planning board’s next meeting.

The board also discussed the right to farm law, in the Agriculture Marketing Act. This allows for the forming of agricultural districts.

This law would give individuals the right to farm, under certain conditions. The city of Buffalo is currently working on establishing such an ordinance.

According to Harrigan, if Ashford were to adopt the right to farm law, farming would be allowed anywhere in town, including near the school, because the town currently has no zoning.

While the attorney said that a right to farm law could be written up “very quickly,” he said that the zoning issue would become a hurdle the board would need to overcome. “You will have no control over where people can have a farm,” he said.

The issue was tabled, for the time being.

In another matter, the board discussed the continuous use of temporary homes, such as trailers. “Focus on what problem you’re wanting to prevent: permanent residences,” Harrigan said.

Board Member William Heim said the problem the board was addressing was individuals’ making temporary homes into permanent residences, without paying town taxes. According to Code Enforcement Officer Gary Perkins, people may obtain permits, for 75 days of continuous use.

In other matters:
– Five radios will be purchased for local constables. The devices that were formerly used will be given to the highway department. The new constable radios will be digital, to allow communication with local sheriffs.

– Heim pointed out the “billions of dollars in money overpaid in workmen’s compensation, last year” in New York state, none of which was returned to business owners. Instead, that money was transferred into the general fund. “We will never see that money,” he said. “[Gov. Andrew] Cuomo said there wouldn’t be any new taxes. What do you call that?”

– The board designated Gerwitz to receive notice of claims served upon the secretary of state, by mail. Town Clerk Patricia Dashnaw was directed to file the required certificate with the secretary of state, with Gerwitz’s designation.

– While the board had previously appointed a new court clerk, it made a resolution to create a new civil service position, for that individual, as required by law.

– The board adopted New York state retirement standards for town employees.

– The board requested that portions of the Western New York Nuclear Service Center be included in legislation approving Cuomo’s tax-free New York proposal, which created tax-free zones, adjacent to state and private universities and state-owned strategic sites. All board members except Beverly Hess voted in favor of this request.

– Dawn Marie Martin was appointed as assessor, at the recommendation of Bill Nellis, who has been an assessor, for many years.

– Hess informed the board about JBI Inc.’s Plastic2Oil, which creates diesel fuel out of plastics. She suggested utilizing this service for the plastics farmers use, for their cattle feed. “They are never biodegradable,” she said, about the materials. The board will send a letter to Cattaraugus County legislators, with the request that a dropoff site be created, for such recycling.

– The board approved the purchase of a set of forks for the highway department’s loader, per a request from Highway Superintendent Tim Engels. These will cost approximately $5,000.

– Hess advised local residents to be on the lookout for an individual who recently broke into an East Otto home. The burglar stole two guns and a TV.

The next board meeting will be held July 10 at 7:30 p.m.
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