There will be no new deer fencing approved in Sagaponack Village for the rest of the year.
Village Board members on Monday adopted a temporary moratorium on the processing or approval of any deer fence applications for the next 90 days, after closing a public hearing. The clock will start after the Department of State records the legislation next week.
In July, two applications came before the Village Board, which doubles as the Planning Board, requesting 8-foot-tall fencing around two different agricultural preserves to keep out deer, which have been devouring and devastating farmland throughout the village.
Mayor Donald Louchheim said during the hearing that board members had only approved “no more than two deer fences” in the village’s 11-year history. He added that the two new applications prompted the board to consider new legislation for how it handles such fencing, worried that more proposals could follow.
“We need this moratorium to just get breathing space so that we can update our code to give applicants and the board the criteria of what’s needed to approve an agricultural fence,” Mr. Louchheim said. He added the board would use the 90-day moratorium as time to draft and adopt new legislation before for the planting season next spring. Typically, amending the code takes at least 60 days, because meetings are held monthly.
Mr. Louchheim said he expects a draft of the law will be written before the October 9 meeting, and then a public hearing will be set for November. If it’s closed before the December meeting, the board can adopt a new law that would “clarify what [the board is] permitting and how [the board is] permitting agricultural fencing.”
The legislation would better define who is a “bona-fide” farmer based on their volume of income on land that is determined by State Department of Agriculture and Markets as in “agricultural production,” require fencing to be removed after land lies fallow for more than two years, and keep vegetation clear around fencing that’s roadside to keep vistas open, to name a few key aspects.
John Frawley, a resident who said he was unsure about the moratorium, told the board he was concerned that new legislation would “put a cap on farmland” in Sagaponack and how the village could support its Comprehensive Plan to preserve open spaces. However, he also echoed other residents who were concerned where deer would be forced to go if more deer fencing was approved.
When it came time to vote, William Barbour was the only dissenting board member, calling the moratorium “disheartening.”
“This dilemma … boils down to the preservation of our farmland from the over-destruction of deer,” Mr. Barbour said. “Deer fencing is the only proven solution. If people wanted to preserve our vistas, they would be as annoyed about driveway gates and 12-foot hedges. If you look past the applicant’s property at 129 Parsonage Lane, the problem wouldn’t be a deer fence that you can see through. The problem are the hedges on Hedges Lane.”
One of the residents seeking a permit to construct deer fencing, Kim Lippman, who owns a nearly 34-acre private agricultural preserve on Parsonage Lane, declined to comment on the moratorium, but was in attendance at the meeting.
The other applicant, Jeff Waeschle, the property owner’s representative for 351 Bridge Lane LLC, said that he was confident that once the law was adopted his application will be approved, because his land has an easement from the Peconic Land Trust, which was approved by the state, for agricultural production.
“We want to become a new farm,” Mr. Waeschle said. “We want to take the appropriate steps to be recognized. But what do we have to do, walk into the boardroom wearing a straw hat and suspenders to be considered a farmer?”
The farmland has been in agricultural production with more than 180 fruit trees for the past 30 months. This year, the owner rented land out to another farmer, who is sowing corn.
Mr. Waeschle said he was willing to “bite the bullet” and pay for burlap for the fruit trees to prevent bucks from destroying tree trunks with their antlers until the deer fencing law is in place in December.
“We don’t want to stifle new or existing farms, but we need specifics on how they intend to use their land,” Mr. Louchheim said.
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