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Judge rules against APA in Lewis Farm case

Though Meyer recognized the elaborate homes as "a unique and unprecedented effort to provide agricultural workers with quality housing [that] may not have been foreseen by the Legislature," he pointed to other cases where residential buildings on a farm were found to be exempt from zoning regulations because they were an integral part of farm operations, as stated by the Right to Farm Law.

"There is no reason to conclude that the Legislature intended anything different inside the Adirondack Park," Meyer wrote.

On behalf of the APA, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office had argued that since the APA Act defined "single family dwellings" and "agriculture use structures" separately, the two were mutually exclusive.

"Also without merit is the Agency's determination that single family dwellings and agricultural use structures 'are treated as separate and distinct uses under the APA Act,'" wrote Meyer, dismissing that argument.

As a result of Meyer's judgement, Lewis Family Farm is no longer required to pay the $50,000 fine and may now begin using the farmworker homes. The Lewises have been touting the victory on their Web site, www.sblewis.com.

Counsel for Lewis Family Farm, John Privitera, said the decision was correct in interpreting the APA Act, as well as the Right to Farm Act and the state constitution.

"It establishes, once and for all," said Privitera, "that the APA cannot regulate the development of agriculture, including farm worker housing."

"The ruling sends a strong message to the APA that they can't push farmers around," said Gregg in agreement. "Agriculture is a viable activity within the park."

Still, not all are thrilled about the ruling. John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council, said the organization is concerned about the effect it may have on resource management land; a classification he says is meant to protect Adirondack forest and farmland from being subdivided into suburban development.

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