Why neighbors have growing concerns about a Charlotte farm

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CHARLOTTE, Vt. (WCAX) New York businessman Peter Briggs has no farming experience but he has big dreams.

"To be a successful supplier of high-quality hops to the Vermont brewing industry," he said.

To make it happen, Briggs bought a protected piece of agricultural land along Route 7 in Charlotte. It's slated to become one of the largest hops farms in the Northeast. Briggs has hired farm manager Julian Post. Post is currently planning the planting of thousands of hops on about 30 acres next spring.

But its development has prompted concerns from neighbors. One of their complaints is obstruction of views. The operation will include thousands of 18-foot poles.

The farm says they've adapted to using lower-growing crops in certain areas to keep many neighboring views intact. They provided a photo that shows what they project poles and hop yard trellises will look like during peak season in the summer, a time when water for crops is in full demand.

"Hops, I would say, do use a lot of water," Post said.

And that's another concern. The farm shares two wells with neighbors.

"There have been instances already of people's wells running dry on dry season," said Linda Samter, a neighbor.

The farm has built two man-made ponds that hold 600,000 gallons each as their primary water resource. Samter says she fears it won't be enough, based on her research of other hops operations.

"In two weeks, they will run dry using up their water," Samter said. "And if the water doesn't recharge in the irrigation pond, then that is a concern. Where will they get that water?"

"We've hired a hydrogeologist to look at our water needs and look at how much water we're catching, and to make a good plan for that," Post said.

Samter is representing about 20 families that live around the farm. Among their other concerns-- the planned use of pesticides.

"If they're planting that right next to our house, it's going to be terrible," neighbor Cate Chace said.

The farm says pesticides are an important, but small, piece of the puzzle for an operation that won't harvest until 2021.

"While our neighbors have concern, there are organizations and legal bodies, regulatory bodies, that are watching us," Briggs said.

The hops plants can last over 20 years. Neighbors say they want planning done right.

"I talk about the unprotected people who are the kids and the residents that are here and live here, and have to be here 24/7, versus those that are on the farm that can leave," Samter said.

The Agency of Agriculture has regulations on pesticide application that the farm will have to follow. Compliance inspections are also conducted at all farms including impacts to water resources. However, neighbors say they're already looking at filing litigation over the farm's forecasted plans.