Proposed agricultural code changes move to county commissioners

Designed for everything from farm stands to retail store sizes to U-pick fields, new regulations for farmers are moving forward to Clallam County commissioners for consideration.

An ordinance to update agricultural accessory uses — a use that directly supports, promotes and is subordinate to a permitted primary agricultural use or agricultural activity on a farm — goes to county leaders for an upcoming work session and potentially a public hearing in the coming weeks, according Holden Fleming, chief deputy director of Clallam’s Department of Community Development.

Clallam County Planning Commission members approved a recommendation to commissioners on May 15, with Katina Hester, co-owner of Gnomelicious Lavender and an advisory panel member, abstaining from the vote.

Commissioners will consider changes to provisions for temporary onsite retail stands, onsite agricultural retail stores, onsite retail greenhouses, U-pick sales, tours and more.

Fleming said there’s been five drafts of the code since November with hundreds of community members providing feedback on the amendment. The changes were prompted by code compliance complaints last summer against lavender farms, the first in 10-plus years, according to county staff.

“We have a strong draft ordinance … that will help the agricultural community to do what they’re already doing,” Fleming said.

He told the planning commission that allowing temporary onsite retail stands no larger than 40 square feet is an important addition along with the opportunity for any farm to file for a conditional use permit if there’s something not allowed in the update that they want to do.

“I think we’ve hit the mark (and) struck a balance,” Fleming said.

A few community members agreed in the public comments, and many have provided feedback since November discussions began.

Addressing a concern about accessory uses transforming rural neighborhoods and becoming excessive, Bruce Emery, Clallam County’s director of Community Development, said the ordinance applies to farms with one acre and up, and that a proliferation of agricultural accessory uses is unlikely.

“(Farming) is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “I don’t think it’s high risk. Ask any farmer that.

“In my view, I believe the threshold for participation will act as a safeguard for proliferation.”

He added that they can revisit the code for changes, such as for supporting wineries on a prescriptive means rather than through a conditional use permit.

“As these start to work, we can always circle back and make adjustments,” Emery said.

“We can come as close as we can to meeting the mark as we should have done all along in the zoning code.”

Fleming said previously via email that agricultural accessory uses are directly related and subordinate to the onsite agricultural activity.

If still pending commissioner approval, Fleming said it would be a “misplaced effort” to begin enforcement on farms that “may be misaligned with existing policies” as staff’s concern is focused on aligning development regulations with county policies.

If the commissioners were to sign off on the code amendment, it would become active within 10 days of the signing.


Prior to the May 15 commission public hearing, Fleming said they made some minor changes to accommodate farmers.

One change lowers the 100% requirement for onsite greenhouses to only sell agricultural product to 90% so farmers can sell items such as reusable bags, he said.

Under the proposed code, retail stores’ public accessible space must not exceed 1,000 square feet, but Fleming said farmers can be creative with how stores are integrated into agricultural facilities and don’t need to be a stand-alone space.

He added that larger stores can still apply for a conditional use permit.

Both retail stores and greenhouse owners can operate from sunrise to 10 p.m. from May to October unless they obtain further permitting, according to the code.

A new proposed guideline, a Certificate of Compliance, will be required for any retail stores and greenhouses. The certificate and conditional use permit (CUP) are the same but the certificate only requires a staff review and not a public hearing, Fleming said.

Building permits are still required for any structure the public enters, and a certificate costs $150 compared to a CUP being upwards of $2,425 along with any conditions mandated through the process.

U-pick fields and farm tours require a certificate for up to 4.99 acres, but are allowed outright for 5 acres and more.

Work stays, paid accommodation on a working farm where guests partake in agricultural work, are prohibited for farms on 4.99 acres and less, but allowed with a certificate for 5 acres and more.

“Other Farm Dependent Accessory Activities” were left vague on purpose to allow for flexibility, Fleming previously said.

Some of the reference activities, such as a corn maze, tractor rides, and/or agricultural demonstrations could require a CUP for up to 9.99 acres, but only a certificate for 10 acres and more.

These activities are restricted to no more than 21 days a year and no more than three other activities under a CUP.

Some farmers have expressed concern that something like a farmer making a wreath could be considered an “agricultural demonstration” and require a CUP.

Fleming said some farms would be allowed accessory uses under a special event permit, such as for Sequim Lavender Weekend.

As for work stays — an activity where at least one individual is providing agricultural work onsite for no longer than two weeks and with no more than six individuals — Fleming said he’s discussed these previously with commissioners and that they opted for temporary tents because they wanted to limit RVs and other trailers and it avoids issues with the building department for permanent structures.

Farms, five acres and up, must have no more than three work stay sites, or up to 12 allowed depending on the acreage, unless under a CUP.

For more information on documents and meetings, visit

Image courtesy Clallam County/ These are the provisions for agricultural accessory uses under a proposed Clallam County ordinance amendment.

Image courtesy Clallam County/ These are the provisions for agricultural accessory uses under a proposed Clallam County ordinance amendment.