Agriculture: Legislature aims to clarify uses.
The question of what activities should be allowed at Oregon farms doesn't affect just the state's wineries.
With the growth of "agritourism" and "agritainment," farms host a range of events, from bicycle races to Halloween hay mazes and pumpkin patches.
Faced with the public's surging interest in these activities but a lack of clear authority in some counties to review and permit them, the Association of Oregon Counties formed a 25-member task force in April to examine the issue and forward its recommendations to the Legislature, said Art Schlack, the association's policy manager for land use issues.
Alex Cuyler, Lane County's intergovernmental relations manager, was the task force's sole Lane County representative.
The group tried to balance farmers' desire to market and promote their farms, the public's desire to recreate and celebrate on farms, the needs of neighboring farms, and the interests of the broader community including traffic and noise, and health and safety considerations.
Many of the task force's recommendations appear in two bills, House Bills 2341 and 2344, now before the Legislature, Schlack said.
A key point in both is clarifying that commercial activities that promote the farm use should be allowed so long as those activities are subordinate to the primary farm use.
If that language became law, Schlack said he thinks it would support King Estate, whose county permit for its full-service restaurant and special events has been appealed by a land use group.
"That's a large winery with a lot of stuff going on, and the activities they're doing are subordinate to the commercial farming operation that's there, the winery," he said.
The bills lay out permitting procedures for a single event, as well as permitting for ongoing events.
"The goal is to help conserve agricultural lands and also make sure the agricultural operations are viable," Schlack said.
"The counties ... recognize the importance of farmland and want to see it be viable," he said. "So they want to be able to say yes to these things and not be locked into a position either because of court cases or ambiguity in the statute as to what you can do. They want it to be clear that the counties have the authority to permit these things. It's not a blank check, but it provides an opportunity to establish parameters and say, 'Yes, this is a good deal. It will help agriculture, and it will be compatible with the neighboring operations and the community.' "
- Sherri Buri McDonald