Volume 12, Issue 34 ~ August 19 - 25, 2004
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Lest Newcomers Become Nuisances
We’ve been hearing about the complaints of folks from northern Virginia and other urban jungles who bring attitudes to their new homes in the rural stretches of Anne Arundel and Calvert counties.

They don’t like the smells emanating from farms, the noisy machinery or those poky tractors hogging the roads.

We read about the complaint recently of dust and husks from corn harvesting blowing onto a tennis court.

Horror of horrors!

Yes, tensions are cropping up (no pun intended) between come-latelys in Chesapeake Country and the farmers and watermen who have been here for generations.

But we don’t have a great deal of empathy for the city sensibilities of folks carving out ranchettes in the countryside.

Farmers are worried about hanging on to their operations, and rightly so. When people are really after you, it’s not paranoia.

To strengthen their case against new neighbors who take their complaints to court, Anne Arundel County farmers are seeking legislation from the County Council to limit their vulnerability in nuisance challenges. Councilman Ed Reilly, a Republican who represents Anne Arundel’s southern reaches, has introduced such a bill that is scheduled to be heard in council proceedings in September.

We think Reilly’s bill is a good one, albeit somewhat symbolic. We would recommend one change in the wording.

The legislation lists various agriculture operations that should be excluded from private nuisance actions. The list includes crops, including fruits, vegetables and flowers and the production of milk and eggs.

It also mentions livestock and “raising or production of poultry.” That’s where some additional wording is needed.

You only need to look at the Eastern Shore to see the water pollution and other damage from vast chicken operations. Elsewhere, corporations masquerading as farms have blighted swaths of rural America with factory hog operations that create an unholy stench with their lagoons full of manure.

To protect everybody, farmers included, the Council should insert language in the bill making clear that the exemption doesn’t apply to the large concentrated animal feeding operations known as CAFOs. We’ll leave it to the Council to come up with the number of chickens, hogs and other critters that might still constitute a nuisance.

Then they should pass the bill, which might or might not give farmers the protection they want.

But the publicity might remind newcomers that farms are part of what makes Chesapeake Country the green place we all want to live.

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