Friday, June 29, 2012

County supports roadside stands

Allowed without permit in some zones

Express Staff Writer

As a result of zoning code changes made by Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday, farmers will be able to erect roadside produce stands in some areas without a conditional-use permit.

But while local produce is gaining momentum nationwide, some who have homes on property zoned as Residential Agricultural say that broadening the uses allowed without a permit will harm the neighborhoods.

County Code Compliance Specialist Megan Stelma said uses such as boarding livestock, roadside produce stands and storing grains are considered agricultural businesses, and therefore have required a conditional-use permit and a business permit, which is priced at $500.

Commissioner Tom Bowman said the original goal of the ordinance was to promote small agricultural business, but may have inadvertently squelched some home entrepreneurs.

"There are no new concepts here," he said. "I think we ware removing roadblocks that were placed in the code inadvertently."

Former Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael said she supported the changes, even when homes have been built in essentially agricultural areas.

"Agriculture is changing all over the country," she said. "Greenhouses growing local food are very important in an agricultural district. We're not talking about residential districts, we're talking about agricultural districts."

Bowman also added that in many residential neighborhoods, homeowners associations can institute rules that are stricter than county code. For example, he said, his association does not allow livestock (even small animals such as chickens) and could be more limiting if it chose.

"I chose where to live," he said, as did the property owners in agricultural zones. "There are other mechanisms in place, there are plenty of protections and choices available to the public. I just don't think there are specific enough problems that this might be creating."

Kate Wutz:

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