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Decisions about farmland uses should be local

Legislation to limit how much a local government can restrict new activities on old farmland has received little action in past legislative sessions.

It should receive little action this year too.

Rep. Todd Polinchock, R-Bucks, has introduced House Bill 216 to keep local governments from prohibiting the use of farmland for agritourism activities, agricultural purposes, constructing buildings or structures related to the use of land for agricultural purposes, limited seasonal events, activities that require a limited license under the Liquor Code, retail food facilities, weddings and certain musical entertainment.

A similar bill was proposed in 2019 and was inspired by the Tabora Farm in Hilltown, the center of a zoning dispute between the farm’s owners and the township. Township officials filed zoning citations against the business after neighbors complained about traffic and noise.

Local governments should certainly try to work with farms that are trying to pivot toward agritourism and finding new ways to make their farm sustainable. But to say the state will supercede local authority on such matters is too much of an overreach of state authority.

Polinchock’s legislation is well-intended, but good intentions can have bad results. This bill would set a dangerous precedent that erodes local authority. Legislators should set it aside.

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