The Village of Fredonia Plan Commission and the Village Board should not let objections by residents who seem to have an unreasonable fear of farming persuade them to block a developer’s plan to grow no-till alfalfa crops on unsold subdivision lots.
Given the appeal of open green-space and the widely held admiration of the beauty of the countryside, it would be a fairly safe bet that many homeowners would be delighted to live next to fields of alfalfa.
But some residents of the Stoney Creek Meadow subdivision have been quite vociferous in their opposition to letting vacant land in the development be used for agriculture, citing such worries as reduced property values, the annoyance and danger of farm machinery and even damage to curbs and gutters.
When they bought property in Stoney Creek Meadow, the residents naturally expected they would soon be living in a completed subdivision, so it's understandable that they are surprised and disappointed at the news that they could have farm fields for neighbors.
The reality of the recession got in the way of those expectations. Developer Phil Lundman found himself with 28 unsold lots and annual expenses of almost $50,000 for taxes and mowing the weeds growing on the lots. He came up with the idea of using some of the empty lots for crop production to reduce those costs and generate some revenue.
Even though changing the use of the land to agriculture would reduce the property tax revenue it generates for the village, there are good reasons for village officials to approve Lundman’s request. The most important one is that it’s better than one possible alternative, which could be the failure of the development if the housing malaise drags on.
It’s doubtful, despite the residents’ fears, that alfalfa fields would have a negative effect on property values, but you can bank on it that foreclosure would.
A plan to use the no-till farming method to put vacant subdivision lots to a productive use deserves village approval.
Alfalfa fields would likely be an improvement over the weed-covered vacant acres of the subdivision, thanks to the no-till farming method that would be used. No-till means no plowing, none of the dust and mud of fields of exposed earth.
In no-till agriculture, seeds are planted in tiny trenches without turning over the soil. The land would have a cover of vegetation the year-around, and it would not be weeds. During the growing season, deep green alfalfa is pretty looking and nice smelling.
Granted, there is bound to be some nuisance associated with farming the land, but the noise of harvesting the alfalfa two or three times each summer is not likely to be much worse than that of the frequent mowing of the weeds or of the racket produced by a homeowner employing the usual array of decibel-rich lawn equipment—garden tractor, weed whacker and leaf blower.
And one more—no deviation from no-till farming allowed. This enlightened method, so good for the environment that it is considered an antidote to the effects of global warming, reduces the impact of farming operations on nearby areas. Besides helping the developer, it could well improve life in the stalled subdivision by controlling the weeds that now fill the air with pollen and seeds that take root in nearby lawns. Besides that, it would give the subdivision an appealing countrified look.
The point of that case is that the no-till farming plan would offer an agreeable transition to the day when the housing market recovers and the fields of Stoney Creek Meadow can once again grow houses instead of alfalfa.