By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Agritourism on planning docket

One is a legislative hearing aimed at amending the county’s zoning ordinance to, the legal notice states, “allow agritourism and other commercial events or activities within the rural residential zone.” The second is a judicial hearing with a much narrower focus — a Dundee tract lying partly in the path of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass.

The request to broaden the scope of events and activities allowed on rural acreage not carrying exclusive farm use zoning came from the board of commissioners.

Agriculturally related events and activities are already permitted in EFU zones, but not in rural residential zones where houses may each be surrounded by several acres of land under active cultivation. The intent is to allow agritourism activities that are “related to and supportive of agriculture,” according to the draft submitted by the staff.

County Planner Ken Friday said his agency was trying to take a cautious approach. “We don’t want events to be the primary use for the property, but we want to allow for events to occur when there is a legitimate farm use attached,” he said.

Typically, amendments aren’t undertaken until after the close of the legislative session. However, Planning Director Mike Brandt said he’s already getting inquiries and felt they should be addressed before harvest time rolls around.

Applications would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Applicants would have to demonstrate a direct tie between planned events and existing farm uses.

The planning commission also will hear a request by Stanley Hutchens to approve construction of a house on a property on prime farmland lying 325 feet southeast of the intersection of Highway 99W and SE Parks Drive in Dundee.

The property is bordered by a railroad line, rural residential development, the Dundee city limits, a stream and the corridor identified for Phase 1 of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass. Phase IV of the bypass would swallow the southern half of the property, but it took decades to reach the point of Phase I construction, so Phase IV is assuredly a long way off.

Hutchens said the bypass had already limited the utility of his land for farming when a late change in the Phase I design mandated development of a temporary interchange that further compromised his holding.

He said it promises to further diminish and divide his holdings, limiting his practical options to building a dwelling on what remains.

Based on the bypass impingements, the staff concluded Hutchens qualified for an “extraordinary circumstances” exception, reserved for circumstances where prime farmland “cannot be practicably manged for farm use.” It is therefore recommending approval.

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