GROTON -- Hoping to clarify regulations and make it easier to find and reference by local farmers, members of the Agricultural Committee plan to fashion an amendment to the town's zoning bylaws dealing with on site residences for farm workers.
Although the issue of worker housing has always been of concern to the committee, it has only come to the fore as the group seeks to organize existing bylaws dealing with agricultural businesses and eliminate instances where they might contradict each other.
At the committee's meeting of June 13, the issue of worker housing was at the top of the agenda as members deliberated over temporary and permanent residences.
Housing for temporary farm workers or migrant workers was more common in town when large orchards and vegetable tracts were labor intensive and many workers would have to be hired during harvest season to do the work.
Over the years, with the retreat of large agricultural concerns in town, the need for worker housing diminished. But with the rise of a sustainability movement and efforts to preserve and encourage the town's agricultural heritage, the need for worker housing could once again become an issue.
More common are barn managers needed for larger horse farms in town such as the Scarlet Hill Farm operated by Agricultural Committee member Meredith Scarlet whose experience in trying to find out whether or not the law allowed for resident workers in part prompted the committee to look
Agricultural Committee chairman George Moore said that even though there is a right to farm bylaw, it is still difficult for larger farms who are obligated to put up workers on a temporary basis to receive permitting for housing on their property.
At the moment, Moore guessed that although temporary workers may still be employed on farms in town, they do not live in Groton but stay in other nearby communities.
It was the uncertainty of the whole subject that convinced committee members to look more deeply into the issue inviting the town's building inspector and zoning enforcement officer Milton Kinney to meet with them last week.
In a brief discussion, Kinney confirmed that state law allowed for resident workers but that local law was less clear.
That opinion confirmed committee members in their determination to craft wording to be added to local bylaws that would be as clear and simple as that in the state's law.
To that end, Moore said the Agricultural Committee would next examine the state law to see if its tenets could be adapted locally and to craft wording accordingly.
The hope, said Moore, was to have language prepared in time to be included as an article on the warrant for fall Town Meeting.