Right to Farm Communities

Below is a list of Berkshire towns that have adopted the Right to Farm bylaws that require a home seller to inform a home buyer that the community allows farming (not the actual property!! That’s a different set of laws).  The disclosure is intended to alert residents that farming activities may create noises, smells and dust (and slow traffic) but those are not legal nuisances.  The tricky part is that each town bylaw is different… Yay, independent government! We reached out to many towns and received their information on acceptance of our sample form and where and how to send it.  The towns of Hinsdale and City of Pittsfield do not require a written disclosure notification to be filed.   Town Mailing/Email list in PDF format and the Right to Farm Standard form

Right to Farm Communities:

    • Adams
    • Alford
    • Becket  Brochure (pdf)
    • Cheshire
    • Egremont
    • Great Barrington
    • Hancock
    • Hinsdale [no disclosure]
    • Lanesborough
    • Lee
    • Monterey
    • New Marlboro
    • North Adams [no disclosure]
    • Peru
    • Pittsfield [no disclosure]
    • Richmond
    • Sandisfield
    • Savoy
    • Sheffield
    • West Stockbridge
    • Williamstown
    • Windsor

*As known to us, as of 12/2016 from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

 

Sample Disclosure Form:   (pdf format)
Note: Some towns may not accept this generic form – you must contact the city / town to inquire about the proper form for disclosure notification, if required at all. This form is simply to assist you for the towns that don’t have a form and allow you to draft your own.

In the meantime, here is sample disclosure language:

“It is the policy of this community to conserve, protect and encourage the maintenance and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food, and other agricultural products, and also for its natural and ecological value. This disclosure notification is to inform buyers or occupants that the property they are about to acquire or occupy lies within a town where farming activities occur. Such farming activities may include, but are not limited to, activities that cause noise, dust and odors. Buyers or occupants are also informed that the location of property within the Town may be impacted by commercial agricultural operations including the ability to access water services for such property under certain circumstances.”

Other Resources:

Mass General Law: PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

TITLE XVI. PUBLIC HEALTH, CHAPTER 111. PUBLIC HEALTH
NUISANCES
Chapter 111: Section 125A. Review of order adjudging the operation of a farm to be a nuisance

Section 125A. If, in the opinion of the board of health, a farm or the operation thereof constitutes a nuisance, any action taken by said board to abate or cause to be abated said nuisance under sections one hundred and twenty-two, one hundred and twenty-three and one hundred and twenty-five shall, notwithstanding any provisions thereof to the contrary, be subject to the provisions of this section; provided, however, that the odor from the normal maintenance of livestock or the spreading of manure upon agricultural and horticultural or farming lands, or noise from livestock or farm equipment used in normal, generally acceptable farming procedures or from plowing or cultivation operations upon agricultural and horticultural or farming lands shall not be deemed to constitute a nuisance.

In the case of any such nuisance a written notice of an order to abate the same within ten days after receipt of such notice shall first be given as provided in section one hundred and twenty-four. If no petition for review is filed as herein provided, or upon final order of the court, said board may then proceed as provided in said sections one hundred and twenty-two, one hundred and twenty-three and one hundred and twenty-five, or in the order of the court. If the owner or operator of said farm within said ten days shall file a petition for a review of such order in the district court for the district in which the farm lies, the operation of said order shall be suspended, pending the order of the court. Upon the filing of such petition the court shall give notice thereof to said board, shall hear all pertinent evidence and determine the facts, and upon the facts as so determined review said order and affirm, annul, alter or modify the same as justice may require. The parties shall have the same rights of appeal on questions of law as in other civil cases in the district courts.


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Solar Panels: Advising Your Clients

I think we all agree that renewable energy and conservation is critical to our planet, our pocketbooks and our health. That said, in the real estate world, there have been a lot of questions and concerns related to roof-installed solar panels.  If you’re advising a buyer or seller client, please be sure to understand that there are many issues beyond what meets the eye in terms of cost savings and good environmental stewardship.

Leased solar panels bind the seller, and in some cases the future buyer to long range terms and conditions.  Some contracts have been shown to be fair and balanced, but others have terms that are not at all acceptable to some new buyers.  The contracts should be read in detail before signing!!

There can also be physical home advantages and disadvantages to a home with panels.  Great savings or hardly any savings?  Both outcomes have been reported.

There are also concerns from firefighters about battling blazes with homes with roof panels.  There should be clear markings where the electrical system can be shut off – and some reports have shown water penetration on upper story fires is limited in the areas where the panels reside.  There are also concerns by firefighters about the added weight and instability on the roof.  For this reason and others, the panels should be noted when qualifying for homeowner’s insurance as well.

The caliber of the professional installing the panels makes a huge difference as well, including what technology is employed and the warranted provisions granted to the homeowner.

There are many benefits to professionally installed, well written contracts for the installation and use of solar panels, but REALTORS need to advise clients that they need to do some research first to fully understand their obligations. Some of the basic first questions a homeowner should ask several solar panel providers to supply are:

  • How is the company rated, and are they reputable with a history of outstanding service before and after installation?
  • Do you plan to install an owned or leased system?
  • Is the roof positioned to catch the sun or is there enough space on the ground to accommodate the panels?
  • What brand and type of equipment is provided? (and ratings of such equipment… some is good some not)
  • Does the installer of the panels guarantee a range of the estimated annual production expected from the system?
  • Will the panels be tied into the grid so you can “sell” unused power back to the utility?
  • Who gets the tax incentives, the installer or the homeowner?
  • What is the maintenance required (washing, snow removal, re-positioning?)
  • What is the gross cost, including all equipment, electrical panel upgrades, installation, additional homeowners insurance if applicable and rental or initial payment?
  • What is the warranty? Does it cover all parts and service or is it limited?
  • Is there a schedule of replacement parts and costs that may be needed to keep the panels functional in the long run?
  • Can other companies service the panels without voiding the warranty?

Clients should consult with their attorney for any contractual obligation they are proposing to assume.  And of course, due diligence research and information on the insurability, safety and environmental and saving impact that the panels have is needed.

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