Saturday, May 5, 2007

Farmland Preservation 101 or Prepare to Testify

This is the first in a series of primers from Jim Hunter of Hunter's Greens CSA. It is meant to inform folks about the meaning of farmland preservation and how it relates to the Clark County commissioners plan for altering the county growth management plan and growth boundaries.

Farmland Preservation 101

Some folks have asked me to explain what I mean when I talk about various concepts of farmland preservation. This will probably run over a series of e-mails in the next few days, and I have tried to target it to folks I think would be interested and may want to prepare written of oral testimony or lobbying letters for the upcoming County open houses and hearings. We strongly urge everyone to get involved, but let us know if you don't want me to send it to you.

Topic 1: Agriculture and the Growth Management Act.

The comprehensive plan is a requirement of the Growth Management Act. For legal and political reasons our comprehensive plan seems to be in a constant state of revision. It should be a long term plan, but right now it seems to be constantly open for revision, creating uncertainty. The upcoming hearings are distinct from the recent opening of the Urban Reserve, which was an issue related to the last revision of the plan.

Under the Growth Management Act, "Agricultural Resource Lands" are grouped with timber, mining and critical areas (habitat, water recharge areas, etc.) as lands for special consideration and protection because they represent resources important to the public welfare, and because under the pressures of urban development these resource lands are often threatened.

Zoning is the primarily tool for protecting agricultural resource lands from being developed for other purposes. Clark County has a 20 acre minimum agricultural resource land zone provision. Lands in these zones can not be subdivided into smaller than 20 acre parcel (there may be existing parcels with in the zone that are smaller).

The Comprehensive Plan Proposal before the county is considering removing1300 to 2000 acres (according to the agricultural economics study done in connection with the plan revision). These lands would become inside the urban growth boundaries and become eligible for intense residential development, or in some cases industrial development.

It is important to note that not all agricultural land use takes place within the ag zone. However, the lands placed in the Ag Resource zone the county has previously considered to be the lands most suitable for agriculture.

So it is these lands that we are asking the County not to include in proposed urban growth boundaries. The lands under consideration form a diagonal band running through the county from Camas to Ridgefield. This line probably represents the edge of the spread of urban sprawl, but it also represents the dividing line in the county between much of the most valuable farm land, and the less useful. Lands closer to the Columbia tend to have soils that drain better, while as you move toward the foothills the soils are more clayey and don't drain. Also, good quality ground water for irrigation also tends to lie to the west. So we really are looking at the last of the best. We can farm some of the rest, but it will be less productive and more costly and difficult to do so.

Well, that might have been dull. More interesting stuff on why and how to preserve farmland in the coming days.

No comments:

Post a Comment