Farmers Testified On Bill To Regulate Agritourism Businesses In Frederick County

The Council heard a presentation on the legislation Tuesday night.

Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Council heard from farmers on Tuesday night regarding a bill which would regulate agritourism in the county

The legislation followed recommendations from an Agritourism Workgroup put together last year by County Executive Jessica Fitzwater to examine existing laws and negations,, and programs covering this growing industry. The recommendations cover the zoning ordinance and building codes, according to the background from Tuesday’s meeting.

The proposed ordinance defines agritourism as farm tours, hayrides and corn mazes, Seasonal petting farms, farm museums, pumpkin patches “cut your own” or “pick your own” agricultural products and classes related to agricultural produces or skills.

there would be a one-time zoning certificate required by those who want to operate an agritourism center which would be updated annually. Along with that, operators would make every effort to minimize traffic congestion, and traffic hazards. They cay operate fruit and vegetable cannons, but not before 1:00 PM,. and it must end by 6:00. These cannons can only be operated by three times a week, and not be within 500 feet of a resident property line. The projectiles must hit a soft target. Operators can shoot off fireworks, but they must end by 9:00 PM, and only on four days per calendar year. When it comes to amplified music, it may not begin before 1:00 PM, and must end by 8:00 PM, not to exceed four hours per day., no more than three days per week, and be directed away form residential property lines. Overnight events are prohibited except for guest farm activities.

One farmer who spoke out against this proposed ordinance was Tom Barse, who operates Milkhouse Brewery located on Stillpoint Farm in Mount Airy. “I can’t imagine some farmer with a two-acre pumpkin patch needing to file a zoning certificate, and have to renew it annually because they have 20 kids come every weekend in September and October. It just doesn’t make sense to me,”: he said..

Also speaking was Attorney Lisa Graditor with McCurdy, Dean and Graditor in Frederick, who was representing the Summers Farm which operates an agritourism business. She said her client supports many of these regulations, but the legislation is not clear on a number of issues. “The bill does not acknowledges that ag-tourism operators offer food at ag-tourism events. That ag-tourism operators offer jams and seasonal foods and retail products for sale at ag-tourism events. .. And that ag-tourism enterprises operate out of one or more accessory structures,” she said.

Bruce Seitz, who operates a farm on Creagerstown Road in Thurmont, said there is no need for regulations in this bill covering amplified music. “There is already a law in place that affects everything you’re trying to police,”: he said. “There’s a law that says you can’t have over this decibel on this property during these times of the day. Why are we restricting an ag business when the law is already there/”

Barse also said agritourism helps him survive as a farmer. “It’s hard to be a farmer. It’s hard to make a living farming. Agritourism gives us an opportunity to feed you and to clothe you and still make a living,”: he said.

The bill is expected to come back before the Council at a later date after undergoing some revisions.