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September 22, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Horse farm sues Bedford over farmworker housing

Bedford promotes itself as a “unique and special home for horse-loving families,” but a recent lawsuit suggests that the town is less friendly toward horse farm workers.

Tanrackin Farm sued Bedford in Westchester Supreme Court on June 14, claiming that the town has improperly restricted farmworker housing and agricultural buildings.

“The town has a history of unreasonably and unfairly imposing unnecessary rules and regulations against the farm,” the complaint states, “in an effort to frustrate the business.”

Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick said he was not familiar with the lawsuit and he deferred to Joel H. Sachs, the town attorney. 

“We will try to see what we can do to accommodate them,” said Sachs. “We are still reviewing the complaint, but generally Bedford is very horse friendly town and very supportive of horse farmers and people who ride horses.”

Bedford describes itself as one of the last remaining horse communities in the country, with more than 150 miles of riding trails, picturesque paddocks, backyard horse barns, a history of breeding thoroughbred champions and a tradition of equine events and competitions.

Tanrackin boards horses on a 17.5-acre farm on Broad Brook Road, with a house, cottage, two barns with 19 stalls, paddocks, an indoor riding ring, an outdoor wash stall and a utility barn. The property, owned by Robert S. Mancini, is zoned residential but is also in Westchester County Agricultural District No. 1.

Tanrackin applied for a permit in 2009 to build two farmworker apartments in the utility barn. The town refused to consider the application, the complaint states, because accessory housing is not allowed in the residential zone.

Tanrackin asked the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to review the decision. State laws, the lawsuit claims, prohibit local governments from restricting farm operations unless public health or safety is threatened.

An agriculture official ruled that Bedford had unreasonably restricted a commercial horse boarding operation.

Tanrackin built the apartments.

Last year, the Bedford planning department cited the farm for not having a building permit, certificate of occupancy or certificate of compliance for the farmworker housing. A separate violation had been issued for failure to get permits for a three-stall shed for temporarily housing horses.

Tanrackin applied for a building permit for the shedrow and tried to submit an application for the apartments, attorney Nancy Tagliafierro says in the complaint, but the town insisted that the farm must first get zoning variances.

The housing poses no public health or safety threats, the complaint states, and the shedrow is an agricultural building that is not used for human habitation.

Tanrackin is asking the court to declare that state agriculture law preempts Bedford town code, that the housing was unreasonably restricted and that the shedrow is exempt from the local building code.