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ZBA Makes Its Decision Over Activity at SA Farm

It was a packed house at the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Tuesday night, with nearby residents fighting the activity at 429 Whitney St. in Northborough.

By close to 11 p.m. last night, after the public hearing, a resolution was made on the ongoing feud over activity at 429 Whitney St. in Northborough.

Nearly 100 people crammed into the board room at the library for the Northborough Zoning Board of Appeals public portion of the meeting - many of which who continued to appeal the activity happening on the property at 429 Whitney St.

The property, called SA Farm, is owned by Santo Anza, and the feud over the activity has been brewing for more than a year, mainly with neighboring residents who live on Coolidge Circle. They argue that the noise levels are unacceptable, and, more importantly, claim that Anza is using the property as a landfill but masquerading as a potential farm, which affords him exemptions from certain town bylaws.

According to an Email from a resident Wednesday morning, the ZBA made its decision shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday, voting unanimously to issue a cease and desist order to Anza, as the fill operation was "not incidental to farming." Anza will not be allowed to bring any more fill on the site, but is allowed to continue to level the property. Two of the five board members voted that his operation is "agricultural," which allows continued exemptions under the zoning bylaws.

Specifically, the public hearing was held to continue to consider the petition of neighbors Eileen Ward, Scott Wellman, Robert Rosenberg, Donald Hamman and Jeff Falcouner to deny these applicants' requests for a cease and desist order for alleged violations to the town's zoning bylaws.

For a year, neighbors say, trucks have been coming and going on and off the property starting early in the morning until the evening.

In an E-mail earlier this week to Northborough Patch from a resident on Coolidge Circle, it stated, "The site was purchased in 2008 by Santo Anza, who also owns Apple D'Or Tree, a commercial landfill, solid waste and landscape construction company. He put a few token animals on the site and claimed he was exempt from all zoning because he was/is agricultural. His only farming activity has been hauling in tons and tons of fill that he is getting paid to take in. He claims he needs to level the land. He needed 18 months to do it. Meanwhile, no farming activity. Our bylaws would not allow this type of activity on this site."

With anger directed at town officials, who residents say had "done nothing," the neighborhood directed a demand letter to town counsel indicating that Anza's work was not incidental to farming activity. With no cease and desist order given, Anza, they claim, continues to bring in compost from other sites.

Both Anza and four of the residents with abutting properties brought lawyers and experts to state their case to the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.

Anza argued that he is trying to level the land - six acres of it - for farming purposes and has researched and consulted with experts regarding the kind of landfill that can, and should, be used.

"I have developed relationships with different construction sites that are looking for different homes for [the fill that they remove]," said Kevin Jarvis of AKM Environmental. "It has to go to a site that is clean and won't downgrade the site. The owner [Anza] said he was building a farm and needed certain materials."

Anza says he took the "high points of the property" and is bringing in fill to level it off for the farm's use."I took the high points," he said, "so I didn't have to blast, and made it level. There are fills that may be 25 feet deep, but there are areas where there is none. If you are going to build any construction project, you take your cut and have a balanced site. It was the least expensive way I could do this and get what I wanted."

Attorney Mark Lanza, who represents the petitioners, said, "I defy you to find one farm in the area where it was necessary to truck in 65,000 tons of fill and process it and sell off some of it. It doesn't exist. He hasn't shown that the site is being primarily used for agricultural purposes, and hasn't shown to the board that there is an accessory use of earth removal and fill operation that is going on."

Lanza said that the petitioners had not only asked that activity not only cease, but that the fill that has been brought in be removed.

"He has really made a perfect place to compost on his land," said Coolidge Circle resident Scott Wellman. "This is what he does. He composts. Be careful when Mr. Anza speaks, because we hear things that are not accurate."

Wellman complemented his statements with a PowerPoint presentation, showing pictures of malnutritioned and dead animals on or near the property, a list of violations he said were documented by the Department of Agriculture.

"He has a history of violating town bylaws," said Wellman. "In Webster, he had a soil reclamation plant and they asked him to cease in desist because of noise, fumes, and rodents...just like what you've heard us talk about."

The PowerPoint presentation also featured a video of loud trucks working on the property.

Anza maintained that not only is he working toward building a farm, but that Apple D'Or "has nothing to do with SA Farms."

"The reality is," said Anza, "that if I could bring six trucks a day, with four trips, the job would be done in two weeks. There is not much left, and then it will be strictly agriculture. If I had to stop today, it would stop me from developing agriculturally. I need six acres of flat surface."

Gina Babcock, who lives at 54 Coolidge Circle, said she has been highly affected by the noise and smell at the property. "In the beginning," she said, "we had met with the owner and he said he'd be done in two weeks. Then it changed to three weeks. Rain came. Then he said four weeks. It kept going on and on. He offers no credibility."

When board members asked Anza how much money he had made from receiving the landfill, he remarked, "I'm guessing the affidavit addressed that. I don't think that's something I want to disclose."

Anza also confirmed suspicions that he is building a slaughterhouse on the property, uttering that it is "phase two" of the building plan.

Concerned residents have erected a Web site about the issue.

For the entire agenda from last night's meeting, click here.

gina February 23, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Great coverage of what occurred at the meeting. It's too bad the the two board members did not understand the definition of agriculture. Unfortunately, our town is clueless when it comes to agriculture. Following is the definition which 429 Whitney Street clearly does not meet as the 3 board members agreed! Land filling and soil recycling does not fall in this definition. He is running a commercial enterprise illegally in an industrial zone. Chapter 111: Section 1. Definitions “Farming” or “agriculture”, farming in all of its branches and cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural or horticultural commodities, the growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, the raising of livestock including horses, the keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise, the keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle and other domesticated animals used for food purposes, bees, fur-bearing animals, and any practices, including any forestry or lumbering operations, performed by a farmer, who is hereby defined as one engaged in agricultural of farming as herein defined, or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparations for market, delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market.
eileen Ward February 24, 2011 at 02:09 PM
it is hard to belive it took the town over 7 months to finally acknowledge that Anza's operation is a land filling operation and should be stopped. Unfortunatly because it took so long, the neighbors suffered needlessly with the noise and disruption to their lives. We are still suffering as the fill will remain on the site, and he will be free to use the land for a commercial composting operation as well as a proposed slaughterhouse. the fill should be removed, so the neighbors are not subjected to further abuses. The town should read its bylaws and protect the neighbors from abusers.
Carmen Hooke October 10, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Massachusettes has a history of witch hunts. That is what this is!!!

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