Shelton P&Z denies farm stand rule change

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Stone Gardens Farms, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 20, 2022.

Stone Gardens Farms, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 20, 2022.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — A local farming family’s push to change zoning rules governing farm stores failed to bear fruit Tuesday.

The Planning and Zoning Commission denied a proposal by Fred Monahan of Stone Gardens Farm calling for a change to the zoning regulations permitting farm stores and retail sales of local produce to a greater capacity on farmland of five acres or greater in R-1 and R-1A zones.

“We’re all sympathetic to farmers, but we’re not talking about growing here,” commissioner Charles Kelly said. “No one here is against farming. It was the way this was presented.”

The commissioners decided against changing zoning regulations to the benefit of one person or type of business. In this case, the commission felt Monahan would have been better served submitting plans for his own property.

“I’m not in favor of applicants proposing text changes to get projects approved,” commissioner Ruth Parkins said. “To me, this would likely only benefit a few, but could be a burden for many.”

After the vote, attorney Stephen Bellis, who represents the Monahans, said he thought the text amendment would give the farmers an opportunity to sell their products locally on their farm.

“The regulation required them to go before zoning with a special exception application allowing the zoning commission to have control over a specific site,” Bellis said.

“Notwithstanding, I agree with the Commission’s statements that the regulation would only favor a handful of farmers,” Bellis added, “But (I) am afraid that the few remaining farmers may succumb to developers’ pressure to sell and the farms will be lost.”

Residents from the areas around Wabuda Place, Sachem Drive, Sagamore Road and Village Drive have been the most vocal opponents to Monahan’s application, even submitting a petition opposing what they said would set a precedent of allowing commercial businesses in residential neighborhoods.

A farm store, under the proposed regulations, could include up to 2,000 square feet of retail area in a farm building if the land is less than 10 acres, and 3,000 square feet on land parcels 10 acres or greater.

The original zone change request would have allowed for construction of a building as large as 6,000 square feet, with necessary parking.

“This would not be a farm stand. “It’s a grocery store,” Kelly said.

The proposed amendment stated that farmland with 5 acres or more may have a building to sell produce, packaged meat, poultry and other value-added products with “50 percent of revenues produced on premises or from Shelton farmers/agricultural craft producers.”

The amendment would have required the applicant for such a store be a farmer who files as such with the IRS and be registered with the USDA as an agricultural producer. The land must also be taxed as farmland.

Bellis said four farms presently qualify under the proposed text change — Stone Gardens Farm, Jones Family Farms, Laurel Glen Farm and the Beardsley farm.

The text amendment has drawn support from local farmers, who have stated that this move would allow for their operations to thrive and in turn keep the land as farmland.

“I understand the commission was looking out for R-1 owners who may live near these farms so I would not recommend appealing the decision,” Bellis said. “Perhaps a PDD application could be filed if a particular farmer wants a store on a particular parcel and the pros/cons can be addressed for that site.

“I believe the commission is in favor of farmers so I look forward to working with them if the situation arises,” Bellis added.