Jenn Grant, pictured here at her store at Findview Farm in Gorham in March 2020, says the proposed events ordinance is important for farmers. Gregory Rec / Portland Press Herald file photo

A proposed town ordinance aimed at allowing farmers to reap income with special events will take a little longer to take root.

The Gorham Planning Board Monday sent a proposal back to its Ordinance Committee for further review after hearing from neighbors and farmers.

The proposal as presented Monday would allow farmers to host special events, such as weddings, festivals, banquets and recreational activities such as agritours. Events would be limited to 250 people.

The Town Council in August sent the matter to the Planning Board to conduct a public hearing and offer a recommendation. One issue is whether some owners of large properties who weren’t actual farmers would be allowed to hold events.

The proposal stipulates a farm must be a working farm and “agritourism” must be incidental and supportive of the agricultural use of the property.

Charlie Pearson and his wife, Linda, live on a historic farm at 43 Mighty St. An attorney and not a farmer, Pearson told planners Monday that he and his wife are not against agritourism or agriculture, but “we’re against this ordinance as it is written.”

The proposed ordinance doesn’t establish the minimum size of eligible farms nor does it set a limit on the number of events a farm could have in a year, Pearson said. He suggested that a farm have at least 25 acres and be limited to five events per year.

Jenn Grant of Findview Farm on Mighty Street is an active farmer and runs a farm market. Grant opposed limiting the number of events and favors the ordinance.

“I think its very important for our farmers,” Grant said.

Kristen Walker, a Sebago Lake Road farmer, agreed that an “extra avenue” for income is needed and limiting events to five is too few.

Pearson said the board agreeing to further review the proposal demonstrates willingness to develop a compromise to protect neighbors while helping farmers.

The town does not regulate Maine Maple Sunday events in the spring that attract thousands to Gorham farms, and any farm can set up a stand to sell its products, according to Community Development Director Tom Poirier. Also, anyone now can have a personal wedding at their property without town regulation.

Once the Planning Board settles on a recommendation for an ordinance, the Town Council will ultimately determine what should be enacted.

In other towns around Maine, allowing farms to hold events like weddings has been controversial. The Cumberland Town Council initially voted down a farm wedding ordinance because of the impact on neighbors in 2017, but then reversed its decision when a citizen’s petition to repeal the council vote was underway.

Farm weddings are held in Buxton, Scarborough, North Yarmouth, Gray and New Gloucester, among other sites.

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