Last week I began explaining the long process of this project, and here is the rest of the story.
The next question was of the rights of Dean Schreiber to sell the land at all. Well, it clearly states in the Conservation Easement that the brothers own the land outright and can sell the land for farming practices. Many said that greenhouses are not farming. However, according to the Department of Agriculture and Markets, greenhouses are farming.
The town board was asked why we would ever allow such a project in our town. My very simple answer to that is that the town board does not have a magic wand that we can just wave over any project to make it legally go away. Intergrow had a legal land contract to buy the land, the farmer could legally sell the land, the farming was allowed for hydroponic greenhouses, and the town board was not hearing the application because, by law, it would be in front of the planning board. The applicant had a constitutional right, under the law, to have his project have a fair review in front of the planning board. At no time did the town board have the right to stop the project review, which would have put the town board in front of a judge for violation of his civil rights.
There were still questions about the language in the Deed of Conservation Easement that the town attorney reminded us about, but the process had started, and the project was in front of the planning board a couple of times at the Webster Recreation facility. This started the legal clock running and all summer the town board was trying to get a ruling from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on their interpretation of the easement language. I had spoken to Gregory Kist, state conservationist, a couple of times, and also members of his staff, and for months all we were told was that, “we are going to send you a letter soon.” So the legal clock continued to roll, and the town board, according to the Conservation Easement, needed to make a decision on having the project go forward. We scheduled a town board meeting for Sept. 29 to make that decision.
At 4:36 p.m. Sept. 29, right before the town board meeting that night, I received an email that contained the letter from NRCS that I was promised all summer long. There was no time for the town board to review that letter with the town attorney before the meeting Sept. 29 and completely understand what they were saying about the many aspects of the easement. The town board went ahead with the meeting and approved moving the project forward based on our reading of the Deed of Conservation Easement and the advice of our town attorney.
After the meeting, we were able to review the letter from the NRCS, and we sent an appropriate response to them Nov. 3. I called Kist, and we talked a couple of times about both letters and scheduled a meeting with Intergrow on Dec. 19. After that meeting, the next move was up to Intergrow to continue with the process and have NRCS take action or concede to stop. From the WROC Channel 8 report, I see Dirk Bemans has decided to seek other options.
Now there are some around town saying that the town board should have stopped this project from happening a long time ago. As I have clearly stated, Intergrow, like any other project in town, has a legal right to apply for a project permit if it meets the rules and regulations under the law in the town of Webster. The town board cannot and will not interfere with the rights of these applications.
I have heard it many times that as your supervisor I can stop this or do that because I am the supervisor. This is just not true. I am one person who works with four other town board members, and we make decisions based on the law and what is in the Webster Town Code. Nothing else matters to the five of us but the best interest of the Webster community under the law.
So it seems that this tomato project will not be coming to Webster and democracy worked as it should. If nothing else, some residents learned exactly how the process works with the good and bad from both sides.
As always, if you have any questions about your town government, please feel free to contact me during regular business hours at 585-872-7068 or email me anytime at supervisor@ci.webster.ny.us.