1. The houses are not close enough to the farmland.
2. There aren't enough houses in the middle of the farmland.
3. Why is there farmland in this picture -- everybody knows that agriculture has no future in Whatcom County?
If you answered (1), (2), or (3), Whatcom County's proposed Rural Element is for you. It allows commercial and manufacturing uses with no buffers from agricultural land. That's right -- zero. That's in addition to allowing more small-lot residential development. More one and two acre lots next to farmland won't help the long-term survival of the County's agricultural industry.
If that doesn't seem like a good idea, tell the County Council on Tuesday, March 29th at 7:00. Speak now, or forever hold your peace as Whatcom County turns into. . everyplace else.
P.S. The picture shows Lynden's Urban Growth Area. The rural element theoretically doesn't allow "urban" growth -- well, except for those one- and two-acre lots.
Update: The purpose of Jean's post is to address the conflict between uses adjacent to agricultural land. The picture is the best quality aerial image that demonstrates the potential conflict. The picture below is from a rural area, and equally shows the conflict. But, here is the planning issue:
The Growth Management Act requires that the County (and cities) have regulations to assure that the use of lands adjacent to agricultural, forest or mineral lands does not interfere with the continued use of that land for resource production. The County Planning Commission's recommendations to the County Council in the fall of 2009 had setbacks of 50 feet for existing lots, and 100 feet for new lots created adjacent to agricultural lands. (Current County Code requires 100 foot setbacks from Commercial Forest Zones.)
The County Council proposal fails to ensure that there won't be any conflict. Residential setbacks from Agricultural land can be as little as five feet for side and rear yards (WCC 20.80.210). While someone could build their house five feet from an agricultural operation, the county code requires that the farmer that wants to build a barn, pen, milking shed, house or feed animals or store manure be 300 feet away. (WCC 20.80.255).
The conflicts between uses is even worse in the commercial and industrial zones proposed by the County Council. As Jean mentioned above, the setbacks would allow a building on the property line adjacent to an agricultural use. Outright permitted uses this close to Agriculture include eating and drinking establishments, retail, professional offices, libraries, community centers, and day care centers!
A farmer recently sent us a comment about this proposal:
As the residential areas encroach, the farming operations need to retreat. As commercial or industrial uses encroach, farming operations retreat. That is not protecting our agricultural resource land base -- and it is not consistent with the Growth Management Act.
"We are the original players in the solar collection business. Steal my direct sunlight and you steal my livelihood. My grass and corn need sunshine to photosynthesize. My bees need sunshine to fly and pollinate. Buildings throw LONG shadows in the winter and even the summer, northside buildings throw long shadows to the south in the morning and evening. I will request setbacks to be a minimum 35 feet or 3 times the highest building (whichever is greater) OR the right to chop off any LAMIRD building that shades any ag land."