New Site GAAMPS, preexisting livestock operations

Asked July 7, 2014, 9:37 AM EDT

If we are not a NEW or EXPANDING livestock operation, are we able to continue as is, regardless of our local zoning? I am a resident of Grand Haven Township in Ottawa County. My husband and I own almost 8 acres on a rural residential parcel which we farm. We registered as a DBA with the county about three years ago and this is our fourth growing season. We have laying hens, raise cornish cross broilers in pasture pens part of the year, and feeder pigs for four months, and also have 2 dairy goats. Our township zoning enforcement officer showed up on our door steps last summer and told us we have to stop everything because we are breaking local zoning. They investigated this further with a hired consultant over the winter months and found that, because we are a commercial operation, we were covered under the RTFA, and could continue. Now that the site GAAMPs have changed, we ARE considered a category 4 site (we have 15 houses within 1/8 of a mile). We have been in communication with our township planning commission and board, had an article written about us in our local paper, I created an online petition with over 600 local signatures asking that local zoning be amended to be more allowing of livestock, and hosted a community forum to SHOW what this all looks like, at which we had 2 planning commission members and 2 board members attend. Things are looking positive that we are influencing their thinking and tonight's planning commission is the beginning of discussions to possibly amend zoning. My question to you is this: I read the article you wrote in the Planning and zoning News for May 2014, specifically the "New Right to Farm Site Selection GAAMP Needs Local Government Attention." There is one paragraph in there that reads: "Regardless which of the above options are decided upon, a livestock operation already existing and legally started under the former zoning, RTFA, and GAAMPs will be a nonconforming use and must be allowed to continue, even if it is in a Category 4 site." We are not NEW and we are not EXPANDING. Does this mean that we can continue as is, regardless of what our local township decides to do with zoning??

Ottawa County Michigan

1 Response

Because of your location, this question was assigned to me and not Kurt Schindler, the author of the article you are referencing. I know that he is on the road, and may not be able to respond to you before this evening's meeting but I want to let you know that I will forward your question to him for further clarification. In order to get a response from him I will need your email contact information - so please send that to my email (piochj@msu.edu) so that I can expedite an answer from him if possible.
In the meantime it is my understanding that if you had a legal operation before the new Site Selection GAAMPs were adopted than you are still legal - although nonconforming (which means you are limited in the changes you can make to your operation and if farming is discontinued will not be able to be resumed without complying with current law). I commend you in engaging the local government and community in the way that you have. If you prevail and the zoning is changed to allow similar operations such as yours than your farm will be in compliance with local rules and would place your farm on stronger footing for legal expansion and change within the local zoning. As well as allowing for others to begin small operations. Good luck with your efforts.
Julie Pioch (piochj@msu.edu)