Zoning, Ugh

Athene

Power Conserver
Joined
May 23, 2012
Messages
18
Reaction score
0
Points
26
Hi, this is my first post under this username, but I've been around awhile. I used my unusual, actual first name as my username previously, but I ran into some privacy issues, and, well, let's just say using my real name online was a mistake, and leave it that. :p

There is a mammoth thread over on BYC about Michigan's Right to Farm act. The Blondie and Dagwood version of this law is that if you are commercial farm that follows Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs), you can farm anywhere, regardless of how your local government has zoned things. (GAAMPs are really the bare minimum. Basically they are geared toward CAFOs.) You do have to be commercial, but there's no income requirement- you can sell one egg for ten cents and you're commercial.

Sounds great, right? Here's the thing: the guy in charge of "interpreting" this law for the Michigan Department of Agriculture is an unelected bureaucrat. He has said, repeatedly, both publicly and to me that he will not enforce the MRTFA unless it's about corporate megafarms. Yeah. Our state's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of small farmers THREE times, and explicitly said that this law was written to override local zoning. However, these opinions are unpublished.

I've joined the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense fund. Talked to them (really, they're awesome, everyone here should join) and they let me enroll as a consumer now, to be switched to a farmer's membership when we buy a place, and said that they do/will take on cases where zoning becomes an issue. Also talked to a downstate AG lawyer who was very encouraging. Discussed it with my uncle, an attorney in another state, also encouraging.

But oh, my gosh, the FEAR. I can't get over it. I live in the U.P., the townships up here are small, everything's a patchwork. Township offices are usually staffed by 2-3 part time people who are consistently clueless. Every place we look at I have to make 45 minutes worth of phone calls to find out how it's zoned, and a lot of them just say things like, "ten acre minimum for any livestock" -which is both ridiculous and stupid, and, I suspect, part of the reason that the MRTFA was enacted in the first place. More just don't know a thing. It's incredibly frustrating and time consuming and even though we have everything ready to buy, it's really slowing us down.

We don't just want hens. DH wants to raise pork, I want a Jersey milk cow or at least some dairy goats, we'd like to raise other meat animals, too.

The problem is that if you get flagged with a zoning violation, the township can send the police out to enforce it. There is NO agency that enforces the state Right to Farm Act. You have to take it to court. There's a lot of talk of reworking the MRTFA due to the number of lawsuits and due to the popularity of urban farming in Detroit. So things are evolving right under my nose.

Can someone help me find courage? I have researched this to death and it's just been so much info that I'm kind of paralyzed. The logical part of my brain is telling me to go for it, buy the place that suits us the best and take heart in the law being on our side. But I'm terrified at the thought of township officials and police seizing our animals.
 

Denim Deb

More Precious than Rubies
Joined
Oct 21, 2010
Messages
14,987
Reaction score
588
Points
407
That's a tough one. I can understand your dilemma, and I'd feel the same way. Hope you can figure out something soon. :hugs
 

FarmerChick

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Messages
11,417
Reaction score
9
Points
248
I am kinda lost on what you are saying.

Zoning of land ---it is what it is. You can't have livestock on land that is zoned 'no livestock'. That Farm Act won't help you. They will help those that have animals on the land that is zoned for those animals.

Is that what you are saying??

You must have land that is zoned for whatever livestock is wanted. I don't think there is a way around that.


if there was a way around, then any person in a neighborhood can bring in any livestock on their land and say they are a farm.




you be sure your land is zoned for the livestock you want or there will be future troubles for you I am sure. If the land you buy is zoned agri/and pinpoints the animals allowed then you are covered. be sure to know your zoning laws on any land before purchase.


(I think I got this right, but a bit confused on the thread)
 

the funny farm6

Almost Self-Reliant
Joined
Sep 15, 2011
Messages
1,384
Reaction score
89
Points
182
Location
Iowa
Wow. Hope you can figure it all out. Can you ask neighbors of the places you are looking at? If they keep livestock then maybe that is a sign you can also.:idunno
 

FarmerChick

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Messages
11,417
Reaction score
9
Points
248
if looking to purchase land now, ask the realtor to show you only lands/homes that are zoned agricultural and state the livestock you are wanting.

then after the realtor shows you that land, you DOUBLE check that zoning. cause what one considers livestock and farming, is not what they might consider.
 

Athene

Power Conserver
Joined
May 23, 2012
Messages
18
Reaction score
0
Points
26
Farmer Chick, the way that our law is written, if you are a farm, zoning rules don't apply to you. Period. It sounds crazy, but that's how our supreme court has ruled three times now.

the RTFA no longer allows township zoning ordinances to preclude farming activity that would otherwisebe protected by the RTFA. Rather, any township ordinance, including a zoning ordinance, is unenforceable tothe extent that it would prohibit conduct protected by the RTFA.

I have tried and tried to get a real estate who will actually work for us as a buyer's agent and help us find what we want and NADA. None of them have done squat. It's very frustrating.
 

hqueen13

<Insert Snazzy Title Here
Joined
Nov 23, 2011
Messages
3,596
Reaction score
310
Points
267
Location
Fallston, MD
Best of luck... it sounds like it is a real quagmire!

As for the courage... I'd suggest working on meditation or other practices that can help you look within for guidance. Whether you subscribe to a "God" concept, or not, or just find your spirituality outdoors like I do, these kinds of things take practice, but can help.

Warm wishes that the answers will come to you with doors wide open!
 

FarmerChick

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Messages
11,417
Reaction score
9
Points
248
Ewww...you are very right to be concerned about taking that step. I don't know if I could trust that to ENSURE that if I bought land NOT already zoned for livestock, that SOMEONE else will protect it for me to that extent.

I sure see your concerns.


Why not just buy land zoned for agriculture and livestock? It would definitely give you a grandfather type situation if you plan on staying a very long time and it would ensure you have rights on zoning from the start.


Me, I can't trust someone to that extent. I couldn't do it. I would have to ensure more laws on my side about zoning before I would start a farm, invest in livestock and hope my dream wasn't taken from me. whew I see what you are facing now. it has to be hard how to proceed.
 
Top