Bill to open farmland to soccer dies in House



EVERETT, WA-- A bill backed by Snohomish County politicians to allow soccer fields on some parcels of protected farmland has died in a state House committee.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Dave Schmidt, R-Mill Creek, would have given local governments the option to approve temporary ball fields on farmland that hasn't been used in five years.

Courts have ruled that putting soccer or baseball fields on property that has been specially set aside as future farmland is a violation of the state Growth Management Act.

Schmidt said the bill, which passed the Senate but never made it out of the House Local Government Committee, tried to address concerns that farmers and environmental groups have raised for years.

It would have banned permanent structures and required an annual review of each field, allowing the land to be converted back to farmland if necessary.

However, critics maintain that once agricultural land becomes a ball field, it is difficult to take that resource away from children.

Snohomish County farmers have asked the County Council to change its zoning code to allow soccer fields on protected farmland, as part of a broader effort to help keep family farms viable.

But county planning department staff members believe that without a change to state law, that decision would not survive a court challenge.

They have recommended allowing ball fields on unprotected agricultural land, a zoning category that covers a small fraction of the county's farmland but still includes several thousand acres.


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