The Vernon Land Use Board greenlighted a project to convert barns at the old Rickey Farm into retail spaces, a farm store, and a butcher shop with a commercial kitchen.
The board on March 24 unanimously approved Farm 94 LLC, owned by Warwick, N.Y., resident Will Brown, who plans to use 2.1 acres for what he called farm-related commercial activities.
He is planning the following developments:
● The larger barn has two floors. The downstairs will be for an art gallery, craft space, or studio space, and the upstairs for planned events like weddings or conferences. A 1,750-square-foot expansion is planned for the first floor and a 416-foot square-foot expansion for the second.
● The other barn will be a farm store that will sell food, bakery items, and other products from neighboring farms in the township. It will get a 30-by-50-foot addition and a 440-square-foot walkway.
● In the parking lot, wheel stops will delineate the spaces. A closed driveway and landscaping will direct traffic to one main entrance and exit driveway between the existing sign and the proposed farm store building.
● A portion of the property for glamping, a style of camping with resort-style amenities. The only permanent structure planned for this portion is a small building that will house a bathroom and shower. The plan has seven campsites on it. Brown said there would be an “absolute maximum” of 10 campsites.
Water and traffic
The owners of the house initially had some objections. Located at 440 Route 94, the house was originally part of the property but it was separated off before being sold to Arnold Kostomaj.
Brown said they discussed Brown purchasing the property but that Kostomaj and his wife declined. Slight changes were made to the plan to address Kostomaj’s concerns, Brown said, including putting in some privacy fencing and vegetation on the border.
Kostomaj said during the hearing that Brown had been cooperative but that he remained concerned about water problems he has encountered since clearing began.
Brown’s attorney, Ira Weiner, suggested Kostomaj get in touch with Brown to see what could be done.
Concerns also were raised about the traffic the new business will generate. Brown said it will be very minor compared to what’s out there already.
About 6,000 cars travel that area of Route 94 per day.
Brown purchased the property in May 2018. He said the project started as an effort to enhance the viability of his own farm, located on Price’s Switch Road in Warwick. He operated a farm store on his property for 12 years, but it was at the end of a half-mile dirt road.
“It has limited potential to do retail business,” Brown said.
Kirk Stephens, who runs Vernon Valley Farms, said he was speaking for the Gerard family, which operates Meadowburn Farm.
“This project is critical to enabling the few remaining farms to survive,” Stephens said. “Farming is at an intergenerational turning point right now. The old guard is dying off, and there’s not that many people stepping up to continue this work of farming. Mr. Brown has been generous in facilitating these projects for the betterment of the farm community and we really are lucky to have him supporting this.”
To see all the plans associated with this project, visit vernontwp.com/government/land_use_board/agenda_march_24_2021.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story misspelled Kirk Stephens’ last name. The Advertiser regrets the error.
“This project is critical to enabling the few remaining farms to survive. Farming is at an intergenerational turning point right now. The old guard is dying off, and there’s not that many people stepping up to continue this work.” Kirk Stephens