Clark County approves farm stand rules

Roadside structures will be able to be up to 1,000 square feet

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Local farmers will be able to have larger roadside stands from which to sell their produce and flowers, thanks to an ordinance adopted this week by the Board of Clark County Commissioners.

Roadside stands, defined as being within 50 feet of the public right-of-way, will be able to be up to 1,000 square feet, according to a code that will take effect July 9.

Existing code limited stands to 200 or 300 square feet and also limited where they could be located. The new code allows the roadside stands in all zones in unincorporated areas, including urban residential zones.

The operator of the roadside farm stand needs only the permission of the property owner to set up shop.

The size didn't please everyone, however. The county's Rural Lands Task Force had recommended allowing roadside stands to be as large as 2,500 square feet.

The new code also gives farmers greater flexibility for agricultural markets, which are permanent structures where farmers can sell not only produce but processed items such as jams, syrups and apple cider and retail items such as canning jars, T-shirts and plant containers.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners backed away from a controversial proposal that had angered farmers who showed up at a May 22 hearing.

The proposal was to have property owners who wanted to build an agricultural structure fill out a form and certify that the building would only be used for agricultural purposes, and then notify the county if the use changed.

The structures, which include livestock shelters, barns and stables, would remain exempt from building permit requirements and there would be no fee to fill out a form. Other counties require a permit or a land-use review for agricultural structures, so Clark County already has a lenient policy. But county staff members wanted a record of the buildings, said Axel Swanson, senior policy advisor to the commissioners.

Among other reasons, the county's code enforcement officers get complaints about nonexempt uses, such as when someone has a human living in what's supposed to be a barn, and the county wants to have a record of when the structure was built. The county had also received complaints from people who had bought property with an agricultural structure that had been converted to a nonexempt use, and the buyers thought the building was legal.

After hearing again Tuesday from farmers who were upset about the form, commissioners decided to scrap it.

Commissioners also expanded the state's definition of an "agricultural structure" by noting that while the building may not be used for human habitation, employees can be in it for seasonal processing, treating or packaging of agricultural or forest products.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.