The issue of holding events and activities on EFU (Exclusive Farm Use) properties is one that is in flux both in Multnomah County and at a statewide level. In addition we’re seeing more activities like bike races using our island roads. Are we being “loved to death?” At Thursday’s meeting we explored these confusing topics.
Sauvie Island/Multnomah Channel Rural Plan to Be Updated
We started with a presentation about the planned update of the 1997 Sauvie Island/Multnomah Channel Rural Plan. Kevin Cook, Planner, and Joanna Valencia, Senior Transportation Planner for Multnomah County, talked about the proposed update. A “scoping” process happened this spring, with opportunities to give input on what changes might be needed. Several in the audience emphasized the importance of this plan and encouraged us to participate in this update.
Agritourism is different things to different people. Google it and you’ll find that agritourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch.
There is no legal definition. But agritourism activities and events are addressed legally in a number of ways. On Thursday we tried to sort that out and let you know the concerns our land use committee has uncovered. There is a more detailed summary below of the legal language addressing commercial uses in exclusive farm use zones (EFU). This information was taken from state and county statutes and from an analysis of legal decisions about the issue.
Agritourism activities take multiple forms:
- Farm Stands, ORS 215-283(1)(o) which, when permitted, are allowed outright a broad range of activities. This is not in question.
- Commercial activities in conjuction with farm use. ORS 214.283 (2) (a)
- Small gatherings and mass gatherings ORS 197.015 (10)(d), which allow gatherings of 3,000 (mass gatherings) or less than 3000 (small gatherings) once in any three-month period.
- Agritourism. ORS 215.283(4) allows “agritourism and other commercial events or activities that are related to and supportive of agriculture” as a conditional use. The current statute allows an array of events. This statute may be revised in the current legislature. Note that each county may interpret the regulations in their own way. At this time, Multnomah County has not allowed any agritourism events beyond what is already allowed under the previously mentioned regulations. But that may change. It will be important to let them know what we think about this.
Right now, most activities on Sauvie Island are happening in conjunction with Farm Stand Permits. Those will continue. But many other opportunities exist, or could exist, to hold events and activities on our island.
These are the concerns raised by the land use and transportation committee:
This is a controversial subject all over the state
- Some people feel agritourism events provide farmers with an economic shot in the arm while causing no real harm to the farming community
- Others feel that these events do harm commercial farmers and farm area residents and that existing laws already provide sufficient opportunities for farmers to hold commercial activities or events
There are concerns about the frequency of allowed agri-tourism events and their cumulative impacts
- Under the agritourism statute, if a local government so chooses, every tract of agricultural land, regardless of size, can hold up to six events per year, each up to 72 hours in duration, if they meet the applicable standards
- Properties that meet the minimum lot size of 80 acres have the potential to hold as many as 24 events each year
- What if many of these happen on the same weekend or weekends? What are the impacts?
Impacts can differ from place to place
E.g., Agritourism activities in more remote locations of the state, where urban populations are small, may have significantly fewer adverse effects than activities located near large urban centers
For Sauvie Island, the land use committee has raised the following concerns regarding agritourism events
How many, if any, agritourism events can Sauvie Island reasonably accommodate, considering,
- There is only a single access onto and off of the island
- There is poor interconnectivity within the island road network
- The roads are narrow and substandard with no or inadequate shoulders
- Emergency services are provided by a volunteer fire department.
Traffic and safety concerns.
How many, if any, agritourism events can Sauvie Island reasonably accommodate, considering that:
- Additional traffic poses increased conflicts between automobiles, pedestrians and bicyclists, and even more importantly, with the movement of farm vehicles; with increasing numbers of visitors, these conflicts will worsen
- Some urban visitors drive recklessly or do not respect the rights of other roadway users, including farm vehicles
- Already, there is inadequate parking space available to accommodate visitors to the beaches, creating backups and possibly road rage
- There is limited parking at farm stands, and more parking removes farm land from production
- While bridge access has been improved, heavy traffic on the roadways, or an accident, could impede emergency vehicle movement and might spell the difference between life and death
- Can our volunteer fire department handle new activities attracting hundreds if not thousands of more people on any given day? Is it already overtaxed?
Quality of life Concerns:
How many, if any, agritourism events can or should Sauvie Island accommodate, considering:
- Traffic impacts
- Noise impacts, especially associated with amplified sound and hours of activities that extend beyond sunset
- Location. The island is adjacent to an urban area with a population approaching 2 million people, which will put greater urban pressures on the island and its resources
- Rural character. Are increased visitations eroding the island’s rural character or changing its focus from farming/wildlife to events?
What is the Cumulative effect of all of this?
Please let us know what you’d like to see happening on our island.
We heard from some of you Thursday evening, but now we want to know what YOU think about this situation. We encourage you to send us an email with your thoughts. Fill out the “contact us” form – https://sauvieisland.org/the-island-community/contact-us/. And do sign your name. Anonymous communications are not helpful. Your comments will be reviewed by the board and will help us know how we should address this issue as the State and the County look to what should be happening on our agricultural lands.
Please give us your input on these questions:
- With over 1 million annual visitors just to our beaches in recent years, plus the many visitors attending farm stand and other events, is the stability of the island’s agricultural character being altered, or can the island handle more events?
- Do Sauvie Island residents and businesses need or want more commercial activities? If yes, how much, what kind, and under what conditions or limitations? If no, for what particular reasons?
- Do you think the commercial farmers who are the backbone of the island’s farming community will use or benefit from these activities?
We also encourage you as individuals to contact the key players in the state and in the county. Check in on the website to for contact information. (It may take us a little while to get it there – we are a volunteer-run organization, after all!)
LEGAL LANGUAGE REGARDING COMMERCIAL USES IN EXCLUSIVE FARM USE ZONES
A. Farm Stands. ORS 215.283(1)(o): allows as outright uses
“(o) Farm stands, if:
(A) The structures are designed and used for the sale of farm crops or livestock grown on the farm operation or grown on the farm operation and other farm operations in the local agricultural area, including the sale of retail incidental items and fee-based activity to promote the sale of farm crops or livestock sold at the farm stand if the annual sale of incidental items and fees from promotional activity do not make up more than 25 percent of the total annual sales of the farm stand; and
(B) The farm stand does not include structures designed for occupancy as a residence or for activity other than the sale of farm crops or livestock and does not include structures for banquets, public gatherings or public entertainment.”
OAR 660-033-0130(23) (Land Conservation and Development Commission Rule)
(23) A farm stand may be approved if:
(a) The structures are designed and used for sale of farm crops and livestock grown on the farm operation, or grown on the farm operation and other farm operations in the local agricultural area, including the sale of retail incidental items and fee-based activity to promote the sale of farm crops or livestock sold at the farm stand if the annual sales of the incidental items and fees from promotional activity do not make up more than 25 percent of the total annual sales of the farm stand; and
(b) The farm stand does not include structures designed for occupancy as a residence or for activities other than the sale of farm crops and livestock and does not include structures for banquets, public gatherings or public entertainment.
(c) As used in this section, “farm crops or livestock” includes both fresh and processed farm crops and livestock grown on the farm operation, or grown on the farm operation and other farm operations in the local agricultural area. As used in this subsection, “processed crops and livestock” includes jams, syrups, apple cider, animal products and other similar farm crops and livestock that have been processed and converted into another product but not prepared food items.
(d) As used in this section, “local agricultural area” includes Oregon or an adjacent county in Washington, Idaho, Nevada or California that borders the Oregon county in which the farm stand is located.
*Permitted farm stand activities have been interpreted to include harvest festivals, corn mazes, cow trains, animal petting areas, hayrides
*Prohibited farm stand activities include weddings, restaurants and cafes, banquets, grocery stores, “Knotts Berry Farm” –
*Activities in question include farm to plate dinners, birthday parties and similar celebratory events, concessions
*Total sales of the farm stand include just retail sales (not wholesale)
B. Commercial activities in conjunction with farm use. ORS 215.283(2)(a): Allows as conditional uses (subject to county review/approval)
“(a) Commercial activities that are in conjunction with farm use * * *.”
NOTE: These might include activities not permitted outright at farm stands.
C. Small gatherings and mass gatherings. ORS 197.015(10)(d): provides that an outdoor mass gathering, as defined in ORS 433.735 (3000+ people), or other gathering of fewer than 3,000 persons, that is not anticipated to continue for more than 120 hours in any three-month period is not considered a land use decision. Landsem Farms, LP v. Marion County, 190 Or App 120 (2003).
NOTE: These may be subject to county health and safety regulations; if more than one event is planned within a three-month period, it does become a land use matter
D. Agri-tourism. ORS 215.283(4) allows “agri-tourism and other commercial events or activities that are related to and supportive of agriculture” as a conditional use
* The statute does not define “agri-tourism”
* The statute has different provisions for allowing 1-6 of these kinds of events annually “in the alternative”, each with its own set of regulations, plus it authorizes counties to allow, in addition to these alternative events, more frequent agri-tourism or other commercial events (up to 18 in a calendar year) if they meet certain standards
* Multnomah County has not yet adopted an ordinance allowing agri-tourism events in the county; Clackamas County allows some events but only on farms that are 80 acres or larger in size
* The statute permits counties to adopt whatever local standards they deem appropriate in addition to those standards set out in the statute