KITSAP COUNTY: Ag rules for small farms to be revised. A new committee will try to bring sense to the zoning code


By Christopher Dunagan, Sun Staff

 
July 12, 2002

Bothered by roosters that crow all day? Worried about over-grazed pastures that damage streams? Or do you think county zoning inspectors are too eager to control horse-riding stables?

 
Kitsap County officials want to plow into these and other problems as they study revisions to the county's agricultural zoning rules. And they need help from local residents and farmers, said Eric Baker, the county's code enforcement officer.
 
Recent conflicts between small farmers and nearby residents have demonstrated the weakness of the county's zoning code with respect to agricultural issues, Baker said. Sometimes, the rules are too strict; sometimes, they're not strict enough; and sometimes, they just don't make sense, he said.
 
For example, the code does not define what constitutes a commercial horse stable. Nevertheless, current rules require commercial stables to obtain special land-use permits under strict controls.
 
Baker said he is involved in discussions with the owners of several horse farms who contend they are not commercial operations, despite the fact they board horses for a fee some just to cover feed.
 
A strict "common man" definition of the word commercial accepting money for a service could change the status of hundreds of horse stables in Kitsap County, Baker said. That's one reason he and the county commissioners want the old rules studied and changed where necessary.
 
Meanwhile, the discussion with stable owners has been placed on hold, Baker said.
 
Revising the ag rules begins with a public workshop Wednesday.
 
"We're looking to get ideas mainly," Baker said. "The county has no preconceived notions about what our new regulations should be."
 
During the workshop, participants will learn about the existing regulations and overall goals of the county. People may provide feedback in writing, by talking to staff or by kicking around ideas in small-group discussions.
 
After the workshop, the county commissioners will appoint a committee to examine existing rules and consider suggested changes. Eventually, the ideas will be proposed as regulations, which will be subject to public hearings.
 
The need to define stables, riding arenas and other facilities is clear, Baker said. The committee also will consider whether to change the amount of livestock allowed on a given acreage.
 
The current rule allows each half acre to hold one large animal (horse, cow, etc.), three medium animals, six small animals (such as rabbits), five ratitas (such as emus) or 12 poultry. Properties larger than five acres are not regulated.
 
Existing rules specify the number of animals by the total acreage. They do not prohibit placing all the livestock on a small section of the property, to the detriment of the animals themselves. One suggestion is to allow more livestock if the owner works with the Kitsap Conservation District to develop a farm-management plan.
 
New rules might also consider noise, dust and odors emanating from small farms.
 
A workshop to launch a study of agricultural zoning rules will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Silverdale Community Center, 9729 Silverdale Way NW. For information, call (360) 337-7181. 
 
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