TWP MENDHAM. – The owners of Backer Farm will finally have the chance to present their reasons for wanting a brewery and tasting room at their farm at 32 Ironia Road on Thursday, when the Morris County Agricultural Development Board begins its public hearing on the proposed plan.
The farm, located on the Mendham / Mendham Township border, has been trying to secure the tasting room – as well as other public events – since July 2021. Since then, however, supporters have been challenged by opponents who say the changes will ruin the bucolic atmosphere. of the township,
In February this year, the county council approved the plan after determining that the farm met the criteria of the Right to Farm Act.
“We’re finally going to hold a public hearing on the proposal,” said Frank Pinto, former chairman of the county agricultural board, who is now a private consultant for the Backers.
Pinto, however, said the hearing would not go smoothly, as he expected at least two attorneys to be on the call to represent opponents.
“It is likely that this public hearing will last more than one meeting,” he said.
Meanwhile, township officials have indicated they would agree to the request – provided certain conditions are met.
In a document published on the County Council’s websitethese conditions include prohibiting more than 78 people in the tasting room and limiting the operation of the brasserie to 29 hours per week, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, from 12 p.m. 5 p.m. on Sunday,
The township also does not want deliveries before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday.
Other conditions include no parking on the road, lights off within 30 minutes of an event, and adequate vegetation to block glare from neighbors’ headlights.
According to the township document, “Neighbors who bought or built their homes near a preserved farmhouse had certain reasonable expectations when they did so.
“Recognize that the problems associated with running a brewery differ significantly from those created by a typical farm operation.”
Safety and traffic concerns are also on the minds of local residents who oppose the Backer brewery.
In particular, the traffic issues are included in a letter Northgate resident Bernadette Koenig shared with this newspaper that she wrote to Morris County Commissioners.
Among other issues, Koenig wants better safety measures at the intersection of Roxiticus Road and County Road 510, aka Route 24. His request follows a June 28 car accident in which two vehicles were involved and four people injured.
She also requests that “a traffic study be completed and information be provided to the Township and Morris County Agricultural Development Board Hearing, currently scheduled for August 11 at the request of brewery offered by Backer Farm, which is located on Ironia Road. in Mendham Township.
Roxiticus Road eventually turns into Ironia Road and winds around the hill past Backer Farm.
Some concerns, such as event noise, traffic, and safety, may have already been addressed thanks to the state’s recently enacted law limiting what microbreweries like the one proposed for Backer Farm can or cannot provide, including prohibiting the serving of food and live music, and limiting the number of onsite and offsite events.
In an earlier interview, Pinto said the Backers are aware of the rules and will “comply”.
Pinto, however, said the farm has canceled many scheduled events because “plans have changed over the course of this year.”
For one thing, he said, the Backers “sold their food truck, so they don’t do ready meals (for example) and farm-to-table dinners anymore.”
Previously, the county council at its Dec. 9 meeting determined that the farm was a commercial farm and eligible for the protections of New Jersey’s Farming Rights Act. A Site Specific Farm Management Practice (SSAMP), which can best be described as a farm layout plan, was then submitted by the farm. In February this year, the county council approved the “application checklist” for the project.
The Mendham Township Planning Board held a public hearing on July 1, 2021. However, Backer Farm was unable to present any plans or experts related to the brewery project.
The matter was also ultimately turned over to the county to determine if it had jurisdiction over the matter.