Right to Farm Act

Asked April 16, 2019, 9:43 AM EDT

Can local municipalities require Special Use Permit for Farm Markets, U-Pick opertation and CSA or are they only allowed to regulate these with site plan review for the drainage, signage, parking and safty aspects?

Kalamazoo County Michigan community planning and zoning zoning and land use regulation

1 Response


Hello,

Thank you for your question. You have asked “Can local municipalities require Special Use Permit for Farm Markets, U-Pick operation and CSA or are they only allowed to regulate these with site plan review for the drainage, signage, parking and safety aspects?”

Farm Markets, U-pick operations and CSA are specifically covered in the Farm Market Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPS) under the Michigan Right to Farm Act (RTFA). https://www.michigan.gov/mdard/0,4610,7-125-1599_1605---,00.html

Scroll down this web page to find the link to “Farm Market GAAMPS”

The Right to Farm Act can preempt local regulation authority—but not all local regulations. In the case of Farm Markets- the GAAMPS has provided specific items the local government can regulate. They are so few- that it makes more sense to regulate Farm Markets as a permitted use with site plan review rather than a Special Land Use (SLU).

The Farm Market GAAMPS allows for these items to be regulated—and describes which entity can regulate them:

Use of space: A farm market may be a physical structure such as a building or tent, or simply an area where a transaction between a customer and a farmer is made. The farm market must be located on property owned or controlled (e.g. leased) by the producer of the products offered for sale at the market. The property on which the farm market is located does not have to be the land on which the products offered for sale are produced. For example, a farmer with a farm located far from normal traffic patterns may acquire control of land near a more heavily travelled road on which to locate the market. However, the market must be located on property where local land use zoning allows for agriculture and its related activities.

Building—if a building, it must meet building codes (it is not “Ag exempt”)

Driveway In-Out—permit obtained by MDOT, County Road Commission (whichever is applicable)

“Signage- The operator of the farm market is responsible for contacting the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), county, and/or township government regulatory authority to determine applicable sign regulations and must comply with all applicable local, state and federal regulations for signs. “

“Parking and driveway surfaces may be vegetative, ground, pavement, or other suitable material. However, other parking and driveway requirements must comply with all applicable local, state, and federal regulations.”

There are many other provisions requiring that 50% of the retail floor space or sales must be from local farm. (see the Farm Market GAAMPS).

The Farm Market GAAMPS are relatively new—I think they came were first published in about 2014. Prior to the adoption of these GAAMPS, it was not uncommon to have farm market as a Special Land Use (SLU) in zoning. Since the arrival of the GAAMPS, however, it is not a recommended practice to continue to have Farm Markets as a SLU.

The reason is that it should be a permitted use with site plan review is that those land uses that are designated for the SLU process are those that have certain characteristics—noise, activity, hours of operation, or other factors that require mitigation through unique conditions or specific regulations. If the topic of the regulation is already covered in the Right to Farm Act (RTFA) or in any of the published GAAMPs, then local government cannot regulate it. If the topic is not in RTFA and not in any of the GAAMPs, then local regulation can still apply.

In this case, the GAAMPS allows limited local zoning regulation for the topics listed above GAAMPS (parking, signs, use of space) and nothing else. There is little point then in having a SLU designation for Farm Markets (CSA, U-Pick) if there are no additional conditions that can be placed on the permit other than those in the GAAMPS.

The Farm Market GAAMPS lists numerous other activities on Page 5 (event venues, mud truck runs, beer breweries, etc.) that are beyond the scope of the Farm Market GAAMPS and those uses could have a SLU designation for zoning.

I hope that you explore some of these links-- they may be helpful in explaining the Right to Farm Act and zoning connection. The connection is not always abundantly clear, and it changes from year to year.

That’s my A to your Q. Have a great day!

Mary Reilly