By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

County considers expanding agri-tourism

“This scares the heck out of me, quite frankly,” said Chair Daryl Garrettson after Planning Director Mike Brandt posed the question the county board of commissioners had asked the planning commission to consider: Should smaller-acreage rural residential zones be included?

The issue arose last spring, when the county adopted an agri-tourism ordinance drafted to implement Senate Bill 960.

The state legislation extended authorization to engage in promotional marketing activities, historically limited to winemaking enterprises, to other types of agricultural enterprises on land zoned exclusive farm use.

Now, the commissioners are considering extension of the application process and governing rules from exclusive farm use zones, where acreages are typically quite large, to rural residential zones, where they are often much smaller.

The ordinance in place authorizes outright one agri-tourism promotion a year for tracts of 10 acres and up, provided it is limited to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. operating hours, 100 attendees in 50 cars and acoustic music. It creates an application process for operators wishing to hold additional events, larger events and events featuring amplified music and/or overnight camping.

The planning commission inserted language outlawing camping, amplified music and crowds of more than 500 altogether, but that was modified by county commissioners.

They opted to consider, in the permit process, both amplified music and overnight camping on a once-a-year basis. And they waived the 500-person attendance limit for multi-event packages sought by larger operators.

Brandt said the county planning staff is not making a recommendation one way or the other on possible extension of promotional events authorization to rural residential zones. He said it is merely trying to convey the interest expressed by county commissioners in giving it some consideration and the potential ramifications.

He said residents of rural Yamhill County acreage have sometimes inquired about getting a permit to host a promotional event, and at present, there is no way to accommodate one.

Planning commission member Michael Sherwood joined Garrettson in expressing concern. “There’s a danger of opening up a can of worms, big time,” he said.

“The zone title is residential, and while people may have agricultural pursuits, it is a residential zone,” said member Dan Armstrong. But fellow member Marjorie Ehry said she hesitated to say “no” definitely to someone who has a legitimate agricultural product to promote.

After engaging in extensive discussion, the commissioners seemed to lean toward extension to zones with a 10-acre minimum, but not to zones with 2.5-acre or 5-acre minimums.

Friends of Yamhill County was not represented, but it submitted a written comment outlining concerns similar to those expressed by commissioners. In its statement, signed by spokesman Sid Friedman, the land-use watchdog group said:

“Frequent widespread agri-tourism events have the potential to significantly alter the rural environment in much of Yamhill County. The criteria in Section 1013 allow consideration of impacts to surrounding agriculture, but not of impacts to surrounding peace and tranquility. Because of the smaller lot sizes and more residential character of the AF-10 and rural residential zones, the potential for negative impacts to livability are even greater than those in the EFU zones.”

The planning commission agreed to continue the discussion at its July 11 meeting, set for 7 p.m. in Room 32 of the county courthouse.

In other business, the commission:

n Unanimously approved a request by Stanley Hutchens for authorization to build a house on prime farm acreage lying 325 feet southeast of the intersection of Highway 99W and SE Parks Drive in Dundee. The location places much of it in the path of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass, and that renders the remainder suitable only for residential use, he argued.

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. What’s more, Phase IV of the bypass will swallow the entire southern half of the property.

Hutchens said the bypass had already limited the utility of his land for farming, and further impacts are in the works.

Brandt recommended approval, saying, “In my opinion, this is most deserving of being approved because of what the bypass will do to this property.” And commissioners agreed.

n Re-elected Darrell Garrettson chair and elected John Abrams vice-chair, replacing Alan Halstead.


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