Letter to the editor: Ag use on ag land
August 30, 2023
Since 1990 Skagit County has protected farmland with good planning and county codes. The current Skagit County code prohibits non-agricultural uses on the 90,000 acres of farmland zoned Agriculture-Natural Resource Lands (Ag-NRL).
The proposed code changes strengthen farmland protection and do not affect farming and agricultural activities. The code permits farmstands, CSAs, U-pick, farm stays, farmers markets, farm to table meals, processing and sales of value added products, nursery sales, farm tours, hayrides, public education programs and other agriculturally related activities.
The proposed code changes do not affect public festivals and tours on Skagit Valley farms. The Tulip Festival was first described as “a 17 day flower festival with 30 fun family events.” The Festival of Family Farms Tour has operated since the 1990s.Both are non-profit, civic celebrations of limited duration.
Skagit County has never permitted weddings/events on farmland zoned Ag-NRL. State and local laws require any accessory use on Ag-NRL must be soil-dependent and an agriculturally related activity.
Special Use Permits on Ag-NRLs are for accessory activities related to farm production. A permit criteria states: “All proposed temporary event uses proposed shall adequately demonstrate how the event is related to agricultural production”. Only two of the 21 venues on Ag-NRL farms hold an SUP. The others have no SUP. At least one venue hosted over 70 events last year. To comply with current codes venue operators can apply for special use permits or relocate to another less restrictive rural zone.
Any citizen can propose new codes through the County’s annual planning process. Public notice, comments and hearings allow a full review of any proposed changes. New code changes must meet legal and policy criteria under national, state and local laws.
Executive Director, Friends of Skagit County