Neighbors Not Satisfied With Farm Compliance Efforts

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Agriculture & Farming

Resilient Family Farm.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — Resilient Family Farm continues to have two outstanding issues to address after a cease and desist order was issued by the board of health last April. Those issues relate to the operation of an unlicensed piggery and manure management noncompliance.

Last week the health board declared commercial piggeries a noisome trade and will licensing them on a site-by-site basis (see story, page 1). The farm owner, Barry Dino Viprino, requested in last week's public hearing that the health board give him regulations with which to work. They did so, defining a commercial piggery as three or more animals. Viprino told the board he would take the pigs to auction on the following day, whittling down the passel of hogs to just two animals, and would deal with the commercial piggery issue at a later date.

Health board members concurred that having just two pigs would not constitute a commercial piggery. Health Department Director Meggan Eldredge made it clear Viprino could not have more than two pigs without an approved site assignment from the board.

Attorney William C. Henchy of Orleans said in last week's hearing he was representing 20 of the neighbors and pointed out the piggery is now unlawful under the board's vote. He urged action to be taken by the board.

“This is candidly laughable. This is a commercial pig and beef farm,” Henchy said.

Henchy went on to say Viprino is in violation of the state Wetlands Protection Act and town bylaws as well as multiple state statutes. He said cutting back to two pigs is “ludicrous” because it is in every other way a commercial farm.

“This is obfuscation. The board of health need to take effective enforcement action,” Henchy said.

Board of Health Chair Pamela Howell said two pigs do not constitute a commercial use under the definition voted that night.

Viprino said he had three pigs, one male and two female, raised as breeders and as pets. He said they are kept in separate pens. Eldredge said on Tuesday she visited the farm on Monday and Viprino had only two pigs there.

On the issue of manure management, Eldredge said there was an approval a month ago with the condition the stored pile would be covered. That had not yet occurred. Viprino said the plan is to take animals to auction to sell and use that money to build a cover for the manure.

Viprino said he's been working with Town Administrator Christopher Clark, who said he has been to the farm a couple of times and while there are a lot of issues, they are being working through with the town. One of those issues is tax compliance. With an outstanding tax bill, Viprino has been unable to get the building permit to put up the structure necessary to cover the manure pile.

Eldredge recommended the building permit be applied for within 30 days and the manure pile by covered by a structure with 30 days of the issuance of the permit. Clark said it is important that all town codes are met, including being outside the conservation area and meeting setback requirements for wetlands.

Henchy raised issues about tax compliance and the need to be in compliance with the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Act. He said there have been violations of the act because land cannot be altered where there are endangered species. Henchy said the deal to take care of the manure cover is legally impossible absent the permit, issues with taxes and the NH&ES Act.

Henchy challenged Viprino statements, saying the farmer committed to have the manure covered seven days before the hearing, but that did not happen. He said now Viprino is requesting another green light from the board while misrepresenting the situation.

“He's cleared a quarter-acre of one of my client's property,” Henchy stated. “The board of health needs to get a handle on this and stop this gentleman in his tracks,” Henchy said.

Health board members Dr. Robert Insley and Cynthia Bayerl said they visited the farm on the day of the hearing and there was no smell or flies.

But abutter Beverly Bangs said she smells it every day and she can't open her windows.

Cakounes said he has not seen the plan to cover the manure pile, but questioned what happened to using a tarp for a temporary fix. He also said Harwich is a farm-sensitive community and the disposal area takes manure to mix with compost. Cakounes also said he makes it available to people in the community who take it away for gardening.

“The problem you're wrestling with is silly,” Cakounes said. “It's a manure pile, get rid of it.”

Viprino responded he is going for organic composting and he can only use the onsite composting. “I'm holding it because it's too expensive to replace,” he said.

The board closed the hearing on manure management non-compliance and agreed to give Viprino 30 days to get a building permit, and once it is in place, another 30 days to cover the manure. The board also ordered that in the meantime the manure pile be covered with a tarp. Eldredge said the tarp was in place when she visited the farm.

Henchy expressed dissatisfaction, citing non-compliance with the show-cause order by the absence of a best management plan for the manure. “You've lost track with what you've ordered him to do. I'd like to see the board of health address that,” he said.

DEP Upholds Commission On Farm Appeal

HARWICH — The state Department of Environmental Protection has agreed with the conservation commission that a section of the Resilient Family Farm property that would contain an aquaponics hoop structure and is located within the buffer zone to wetland resources is not land protected under agricultural use. DEP has determined a Notice of Intent filing with the conservation commission will be required to move forward with the project.

Barry Dino Viprino, owner of the farm located at 35 Chatham Rd., filed with DEP for a superseding determination of applicability challenging the commission’s finding a notice of intent would be necessary.

The finding stated: “To date, the applicant has not provided information demonstrating that this land (proposed hoop house structure) is being used in the producing or raising of commodities for commercial propose.” The finding stated that portions of the area where the hoop structure is proposed showed an unstable earthen sideslope that was actively eroding soil material into the adjacent area of bordering vegetated wetland.