Maybe these folks should have checked to see what AR-1 zoning meant.
Photo by: Ron MacArthur Pigs live within a few feet of nearby homes in the Stamper Farms development along Route 9 near Lewes.
Lewes — In a clash of rural neighbors, owners of a small farming operation along Route 9 say they are doing nothing wrong. Meanwhile, residents who live within a few feet of the farm say they are fed up with the operation.
Conflicting information has residents in the area of the small farm confused.
Although owners of the parcel say all animals have been removed, there were at least eight pigs at the farm Nov. 8. Although residents say deed restrictions in the Stamper Farms community prohibit farm use, a county official says no such deed restrictions exist and the use is permitted under the parcel’s AR-1, agricultural-residential, zoning classification.
William Langkammer, who lives near the small farm, said residents have tried and failed in many attempts to contact county and state officials to draw attention to issues they have with the farm operation. He says the condition of the farm, which is mostly dirt, is deplorable; the odor is offensive; and buildings on the farm are dilapidated and unsightly. At one time, Langkammer said, there were 13 pigs within the fenced-in area, which is a violation of county code. There have also been sheep, cows and chickens at the farm.
“We just want this to be made to look like a yard, not a dump. It’s an overgrown pigsty,” Langkammer said. “This is a residential area and we were told it would be taken care of by Aug. 15.”
Lawrence Lank, director of county planning and zoning, said because the parcel is zoned AR-1, the small farm is a permitted use. He said an inspector has been to the property several times and did not find any violations.
“The use is permitted in the AR-1 district since the zoning ordinance allows, on less than 5 acres, any farm, truck garden, orchard or nursery use. No buildings for the keeping of animals shall be located closer than 50 feet from any lot line and 100 feet from any dwelling not on the premises,” Lank said.
On less than 5 acres, a small farm can have up to four cattle, eight sheep, eight goats, eight hogs and 100 chickens, Lank said.
Langkammer said at times the animals have not been well cared for, and residents have fed them scraps. He said one night police were called when residents were awakened by gunfire. “Someone was there slaughtering the chickens,” he said.
He said no animal rights or protection agency was interested in what was going on at the farm.
The farm was to have been used in conjunction with Salt Air, a farm-to-table restaurant less than one mile from the farm. It was scheduled to be open about a year ago until one of the partners in the project became sick. The farm was to be used to supply fresh meat and vegetables to the restaurant. Parcel owner Good for You LLC is leasing the property to the restaurant’s owners.
The area was a garden for the former Good for You Market, but it was converted into a small farm when the market closed about a year ago. Residents near the farm started questioning the operation of the farm by contacting officials this past summer.
Sussex County Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach, who said she has been aware of farm for weeks, agreed the use is permitted. In addition, she said the community around the farm has no deed restrictions, although residents disagree with that assumption.
“In my community we have a deed restriction dating back to the 1960s against pigs. We all thought it was funny. Now you can understand the need for deed restrictions,” she said.
Even so, Deaver said the area should be cleaned up. “It’s wrong; it’s a nightmare for the community,” Deaver said. “It should never happen again.”