BEDMINSTER — The township has a new agritourism ordinance on the books listing the types of accessory commercial uses allowed along with farming.

Under the rules, the principal use of the property must be a working farm or a winery, brewery or distillery and the agritourism uses must be "directly supportive of the agricultural use of the site and will not have significant impacts on the agricultural viability or rural character of neighboring properties," the ordinance says. 

"I think some of the earlier drafts had more entertainment, less agricultural-related uses in there. That's been modified," John Rice, the township's solicitor, said at the Jan. 8 Bedminster Township Board of Supervisors meeting at which the new ordinance was passed.

Included in the list of what's allowed are seasonal u-pick flowers, fruits and vegetables; Christmas tree farms; community supported agriculture (CSA); farmer's markets that have 2,000 square feet or less of sales area and 10 or less producers/retailers; wineries, breweries and distilleries; food sales and food processing of agriculturally-related products not for off-site sale; gift shops for agriculturally-related products; cider mills and maple sugaring operations; wagon rides, sleigh rides and hayrides; seasonal outdoor mazes of agricultural origin, such as ones made with straw bales or corn; petting farms, animal displays and pony rides; cooking classes for food products raised on the farm (limited to no more than 25 attendees at a time); educational tours of processing facilities, workshops or livestock care and feeding (limited to no more than 25 attendees at a time); educational classes or workshops on agricultural subjects (limited to no more than 25 attendees at a time); and historical agricultural exhibits. 

Uses that had been proposed to be allowed under earlier versions, but that were subsequently dropped included special events such as parties, weddings, receptions or concerts; community events; nature trails; recreation-related operations such as fishing and hunting facilities or bird watching; overnight accommodations; and kitchen and catering facilities for on-site community events or special events.

"You now have some definitions for what qualifies as an activity under the agritourism use," Rice said. 

"Farms are continually looking at value-added ways to make more money to farm," board Chairman Glenn Wismer said. "I think we want to have some control so we don't have an amusement park-type setup here." 

"Hershey Park East," Rice joked. 

In answer to a resident question, Township Manager Rich Schilling said the new ordinance is for agritourism, not farming, and doesn't change the way existing farms are allowed to operate.

"I think my lifespan would be pretty short if I went out to the farmers and said we're changing the rules for agriculture here," he said, "and I don't believe that that's the intent of the ordinance."

Rice said existing uses at farms are grandfathered in and can remain. The ordinance applies to new uses, he said.  

"It's really gonna be for the more retail intensive, a lot of traffic-type, uses," Rice said, "not what's already going on."

The ordinance also added wineries, breweries and distilleries to the list of uses in the township's zoning ordinance. 

"A winery/brewery/distillery processes grapes, grains, hops, and other fruit and vegetable products to produce wine, beer, or other similar spirits," the ordinance says. "Processes includes crushing, fermenting, blending, ageing, bottling, storing, warehousing, wholesale sales, and related administrative functions."

The minimum lot size for a winery, brewery or distillery is five acres under the ordinance. Any buildings associated with the operations must be at least 100 feet from the street or a property line.

In a separate matter, the board approved rules and regulations for township parks and parkland. The primary existing township park area is trails by the township offices on Elephant Road, Schilling said. Longer term plans include adding youth sports league fields in that area, Wismer said. 

Under the new rules, groups of 15 or more people using the park must get a permit from the township. 

The parks are open from sunrise to sunset. No motorized vehicles other than official township vehicles are allowed on any part of the park other than the designated public parking area and drives. 

Prohibited activities include hunting, trapping, archery, target practice, camping, horseback riding, driving golf balls, skateboarding, operating off-road vehicles, or setting off fireworks; injuring, killing or otherwise disturbing any birds or animals; destroying or removing any nest or habitat in the park system; cutting, mutilating or taking away trees, shrubs and/or flowers; possession, consumption or distribution of any alcoholic beverage or controlled substance; open fires; and smoking.

Amplification equipment is not allowed in the park system unless authorized in writing by the township. 

"No Person shall conduct themselves in any violent, loud, boisterous, abusive, immoral, or otherwise disorderly fashion tending to create a breach of peace, constitute a nuisance, or disturbing or annoying others while within the Park System," the ordinance states.

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