ZONING; AGRICULTURE (GENERAL);
PLANNING AND ZONING;
June 26, 2003
ZONING AND AGRICULTURE
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked for a description of the applicability of zoning law to agriculture and whether the state’s “right-to-farm” law (CGS § 19a-341) protects a constituent whose greenhouse may violate local setback requirements under his town’s zoning regulations
Connecticut’s zoning law generally applies to farming as well as other land uses. CGS § 8-2 allows local zoning regulations to govern the location and use of buildings and other structures, and setback requirements (minimum distances between a structure and a lot line) are very common in practice. The fact that a structure is used in farming does not, in itself, exempt it from generally applicable setback requirements, although the section requires that zoning regulations be made “with reasonable consideration for their impact on agriculture. ”
Two generally applicable provisions of zoning law may be relevant to your constituent’s situation. First, CGS § 8-2 requires that uses, buildings, and structures that do not conform to current zoning regulations but were lawful when the regulations were adopted be allowed to continue. This is also true the town revises zoning regulations after a site plan has been approved under CGS § 8-3. For example, if the setback requirements were established after the greenhouse was built,
and the greenhouse otherwise conformed to the zoning regulations at the time, the town must allow the continued use of the greenhouse. Similarly, if the greenhouse met the applicable setback requirements when it was built, and the town subsequently increased these requirements, the greenhouse could continue in use.
Second, your constituent may wish to obtain a variance pursuant to CGS § 8-6 if the setback requirements bar the continued use of the greenhouse. A zoning board of appeals (ZBA) can grant variances from zoning regulations if literal enforcement of the regulations would result in “exceptional difficulty or unusual hardship. ” Any variance granted by a ZBA runs with the land, that is, it continues after the property is sold.
CGS § 19a-341 protects farm operations and facilities from certain lawsuits grounded in nuisance, but it does not exempt them from zoning law. Notwithstanding other state and local laws, the section generally precludes lawsuits based on:
1. odor from livestock, manure, fertilizer, or feed;
2. noise from livestock or farm equipment used in normal, generally acceptable farming procedures;
3. dust caused by plowing or cultivation;
4. use of chemicals consistent with practices approved by the departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health; and
5. water pollution from livestock or crop production, subject to several exceptions.
The protection does not apply when a nuisance is caused by negligence or reckless or willful misconduct in the operation of the farm.