The show will go on for a renewed Rochester Farms

By Andrea Ray | Aug 07, 2017
Photo by: Andrea Ray The proposed site for Rochester Farms, on Marion Road.

Rochester — Two weeks after asking Rochester's Planning Board to withdraw an application for a farmers market on Marion Road, owner Craig Canning announced on August 7 that the project is back on track for approval.

"I know that I requested that you pull the permit due to issues with the neighbors," Canning told Planning Board Chair Arnie Johnson. "I've been overwhelmed with support from other neighbors and people nearby. I'd like to continue with the site plan review."

The announcement brought a strong round of applause from the crowd seated in Rochester Memorial School's cafeteria. The Planning Board's meeting was moved to the cafeteria in anticipation of a large crowd for both Rochester Farms and a Mendell Road solar farm.

Canning's Rochester Farms project is proposed on 60 acres on Marion Road; land that in years past was home to the Rochester Airport. The site plan application includes two buildings on four acres of the property -- one for food processing, and the other a 7,200 square-foot building which will function as a farmers market.

The remaining 56 acres will be agriculturally farmed, with the exception of several acres of wetlands at the back of the property. The fields will produce seasonal crops such as pumpkins, squash, lettuce and carrots.

While some abutters expressed frank support for the project at a July 12 Planning Board meeting, citing how refreshing it was to see agriculture come back to Rochester, others remained concerned. A handful of abutters commented that the large retail space was not in keeping with Rochester's rural character.

Canning received a special permit from Rochester's Zoning Board to sell commercially in a residential area on July 13, but concerns from abutters did not abate.

Shortly before a Planning Board meeting on July 25, where Rochester Farms' site plan application was on the agenda, Canning submitted a letter to the Planning Board, requesting that the board withdraw the application without prejudice.

In the letter sent to the board, Canning wrote, "I would like to respectfully withdraw my application for Rochester Farms on Marion Road...unfortunately there are a few neighbor issues such as: 223 Marion Road, they asked me to move the project 25' to the west, which I was happy to do, but they are still not satisfied [and] 269 Marion Road, they take great exception to the size of the farmers market as it is 'not in keeping with the community'..."

He added, "Keeping this property as a farm is something I wished to do, but dealing with a few disgruntled neighbors forever is not a path I wish to take. I am going to take some time to evaluate all of my options (solar, housing, agriculture & farmers market) and then decide on the best opportunity for the future of the property."

Now a flurry of support from neighbors near and far have led to the project's rejuvenation. Canning and representative Bill Madden, of GAF Engineering, intend to return to the Planning Board's August 22 meeting with updated plans in hand, though the workload of the Planning Board may necessitate a move to the board's September 12 meeting instead.

The proposed hours of operation for Rochester Farms are 7 days per week, 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Canning described the proposed hours as "maximum hours," indicating that he would likely close earlier and open laters on days or in seasons with less customer traffic.

Lighting is minimal. "There will be two small signs on the sign, and some wall sconces on front of the building," Canning said at the July meeting.

The property is restricted to 50 parking spots, by requirement of Rochester's Zoning Board of Appeals. The market is also not allowed to sell liquor, tobacco products, marijuana, lottery tickets or fuel. Neither building can exceed 7,200 square-feet. The conditions were placed upon Rochester Farms in order for Canning to receive the special permit to sell commercially in a residentially-zoned area.




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