Health Board To Conduct Public Hearing On Piggeries

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Health , Agriculture & Farming

The board of health has voted to regulate piggeries in Harwich. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — There has been a lot of discussion about farms in residential areas and their impacts on neighborhoods over the past year. The operation of a piggery in such a location now has the board of health weighing if such an facility is a “noisome trade” and whether there should be restrictions or even prohibitions on piggeries in town.

The board has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday evening to solicit comment on the regulations of piggeries as a noisome trade. The hearing will be followed by a show cause hearing for Resilient Family Farm on its operation of an unlicensed piggery. Neighbors to Resilient Family Farm have voiced concerns about the noise from pigs on the farm, which is located on nearly 10 acres of land in a residential neighborhood.

The owner of the farm, Barry Dino Viprino, has argued the town has no right to cite him for operating an unlicensed piggery in the absence of a regulatory definition of a piggery or a town bylaw. He has also said the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is aware of six farmers in the community raising pigs.

Health Department Director Meggan Eldredge said the board has been informed by town counsel it does not need specific regulations for piggeries because it has the authority under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 111, Section 143 to find the trade may be noisome to the public.

She said the board can find that piggeries are a noisome trade and can prohibit them outright, or it can look at each piggery and determine site by site whether they are appropriate. If the board decides to follow a site-by-site basis, it will have to issue site assignments for each. Eldredge estimated there are three piggery operations in town: Viprino's, Skipper Lee's Pleasant Lake Farm and Leo Cakounes' Cape Farm Supply Farm in North Harwich.

Cakounes, a former president of the Cape and Islands Farm Bureau, said the board of health is well within its rights under state law. He said one of the reasons he left the farm bureau was related to support of state regulations allowing two-acre farms.

“I was opposed to that,” Cakounes said. “We shouldn't have commercial farm operations with livestock, pigs and roosters, with neighbors right next door to you.”

If the board votes to allow the existence of piggeries under site assignment, each would require site assignment approval to operate. The board would look at the property location and the size, where the piggery is placed on the site and the location of abutters. The number of pigs would also be an element of the review, Eldredge said.

Cakounes said he hoped the board of health would allow keeping one pig for personal use.

There is no grandfathering of pre-existing operations, Eldredge added. The board of health can decide if piggeries are a noisome trade and prohibit them town-wide. She also said site assignments can be revoked or modified if a greater nuisance evolves.

The show cause hearing for Resilient Family Farm will be held after the health board's public hearing on whether piggeries are a noisome trade. Eldredge said she thinks the board will make decisions on how to proceed in the hearing.

The show cause hearing has been generated by a number of complaints received by the town. Eldredge said the last time she was at Resilient Family Farm she saw four pigs.

“We haven't received any formal complaints about other piggeries,” Eldredge said. “We know about others from word of month.”

The public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the hearing room in town hall.

“We're anticipating a lot of pros and cons on the matter,” Eldredge said. “The board of health will listen and I believe they will made a decision. It's been kicking around for many months and I know the board is looking for a resolution.”