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On September 30th, the Planning and Zoning Commission of Sherman released a proposal that would add an entirely new sub-section to the Zoning Regulations. Section 352 “Farming” is currently a short section, about 9 paragraphs in 7 subsections dealing with setbacks, lot size, sales, and general farming practices in accordance to the CT state definition of farming and overseen by the Commission on Agriculture or “designee.”

The proposed addition, Section 352 A. “Farm Winery,” is longer than the entire farming section (about 13 paragraphs and 6 subsections) and seeks to heavily regulate this type of establishment, beginning with applying for a “Special Permit” reviewed by the P&Z commission.

If the Special Permit is granted, the Commission would enforce the regulations it proposes; for example, in 352.A.2. “Minimum Bulk Requirements: “the proposal states that “the lot must maintain a minimum of 60,000 square feet of planted vineyard area prior to issuance of a special permit. In reviewing a Special Permit application…the Commission shall consider that a Farm Winery is an accessory use to a vineyard and may reduce the size and scope of activities permitted based on the size of the vineyard.”

Other items of oversight and enforcement include: how many ounces of wine may be sampled at a wine tasting; what kind of food may be served; hours of operation of events; types of activities and events that are allowed; maximum occupancy of events; and the requirement that a special event permit be obtained for events including more than 25 people.

White Silo Farm, located on Route 37 North in Sherman, is at present the only establishment in Sherman that fits the description of “Farm Winery.” It is therefore worth questioning whether there have been problems or perceived problems with White Silo Farm’s operation in the past that would necessitate these extensive new regulations; if there has been noncompliance or undercompliance with state or federal laws that these regulations would correct; or if these proposed changes are designed to limit the kind of farming and retail businesses Sherman can contain in the future.

When asked for some background on why these changes were being proposed, Enforcement Officer Ronald Cooper indicated that the Planning and Zoning Commission was unable to disclose why they generated the proposed regulations or arrived at their details, and referred interested parties to the hearing which will be held November 3rd at 7 pm at the Sherman Town Hall. According to the Warning of Public Hearing, residents “may appear and be heard and written communications received.” Copies of the Warning of Public Hearing containing the proposed changes are available at the Planning and Zoning Office in the Sherman Town Hall.

By Alexis Mace