Weddings are (Still) not an “Agricultural Operation”

By Gary R. Pannone, & March 10, 2018Business

The RFA represents a legislative determination to preserve and protect remaining agricultural operations. The 2014 amendment provided that:

‘agricultural operations’ includes any commercial enterprise that has as its primary purpose horticulture, viticulture, viniculture, floriculture, forestry, stabling of horses, dairy farming, or aquaculture, or the raising of livestock, including for the production of fiber, furbearing animals, poultry, or bees, and all such other operations, uses, and activities as the director, in consultation with the chief of division of agriculture, may determine to be agriculture, or an agricultural activity, use or operation. The mixed-use of farms and farmlands for other forms of enterprise including, but not limited to, the display of antique vehicles and equipment, retail sales, tours, classes, petting, feeding and viewing of animals, hay rides, crop mazes, festivals and other special events are hereby recognized as a valuable and viable means of contributing to the preservation of agriculture.’

The Court decided that while the first sentence of the amendment provided definitional guidance as to what constitutes “agricultural operations,” the second sentence merely provided “a list of encouraged activities that the General Assembly has deemed ‘valuable and viable’ with respect to ‘contributing to the preservation of agriculture.'” Thus, the Court determined that the listed activities were “nonagricultural operations” and subject to local town control.

Accordingly, while many of the listed activities in the second sentence of the 2014 amendment may contribute to the long term success of a farm (which would further effectuate the purpose of the RFA), this does not mean that those activities may be conducted as a right regardless of local ordinances, such as zoning restrictions. If a farm is located in a district that is not properly zoned for such activities, then the landowner will need to apply for relief from the local zoning board. Only with such relief will a farm owner be able to offer the activities listed, such as hosting a wedding for a fee. For further information about this issue or other business matters, contact Attorney Patrick J. McBurney at 401-824-5100 or email pmcburney@pldolaw.com. We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

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Gary R. Pannone is the Managing Principal of Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O'Gara LLC and has been representing closely held business owners for thirty years. He is an experienced business lawyer specializing in the areas of business formations, corporate restructuring, mergers, acquisitions and corporate compliance. His practice includes the representation of nonprofit organizations with respect to consolidations, mergers and acquisitions. In addition to his role as Managing Principal of the firm, Attorney Pannone serves as the team leader for the Health Care Law, Corporate & Business Law and Nonprofit Organizations teams.

Attorney Pannone serves on several boards and governance committees of nonprofit organizations. He is a former Town Solicitor and has served as special counsel to several municipalities. He is also a frequent lecturer and author in the areas of health care law, corporate compliance, board governance and best practices.

Prior to the founding of Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O'Gara LLC, Attorney Pannone served as the managing partner of the Providence office of Holland & Knight LLP. He is a prominent member of the legal community, and was honored by his peers and judges with the AV Preeminent rating from Martindale Hubbell, which is the highest rating based on both legal ability and ethics. He has also been recognized by his peers as a leading lawyer in the areas of business law and corporate compliance by The Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA, Super Lawyers and Corporate Counsel. For several years, including 2017 and 2018, Attorney Pannone was named Rhode Island's Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in his practice areas. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, the nation's leading research institute for the study of law.

Attorney Pannone received his J.D. from Suffolk Law School after earning his undergraduate degree in Finance and Accounting from the University Of Notre Dame. He is admitted to practice law in Rhode Island and the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

To contact Attorney Pannone, call 401-824-5100 or email gpannone@pldolaw.com.