Regulations on farms, tiny homes proposed

After a year in office as Clallam County’s Director of the Department of Community Development, Bruce Emery said his department has made some progress, but there’s still work to be done.

Emery told the Port Angeles Business Association on Jan. 23 that the department had made progress in several areas including code enforcement, junk removal and drafting ordinances to address local concerns.

During his campaign for director — Clallam County has the only elected DCD director position in the country — Emery said the subject of code enforcement came up often.

Code enforcement in the county is complaint-based, and in the past, the county has struggled to respond to reports of code violations.

At the beginning of 2023, Emery said there were 344 open code compliance cases, and while 2024 began with 345 open cases, the department had actually made good progress on the issue.

“At first glance, that doesn’t sound like a good statistic, but I defend it wholeheartedly,” Emery said.

The department began the year with 1.5 code enforcement employees and there was some fluctuation in personnel, but DCD was still able to resolve 187 cases even as it added 188 new ones.

“I’m happy to say that our code enforcement program is working very efficiently now, and I expect those numbers to improve in 2024,” Emery said.

The department also is working on an ordinance governing park model RVs, sometimes called tiny homes on wheels, which can be placed on a property to serve as an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU.

Park models remain on wheels and don’t need a foundation like some tiny homes do, but they need utility connections to operate.

“One of the challenges that we ran into, No. 1, they are being used, so it’s incumbent on us to get out in front of this thing, because if it’s allowed to proliferate, it has an impact on the quality of our community,” Emery said.

The proposed ordinance has been before the county planning committee and will go before the Clallam County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 13 for approval.

“Generally speaking, it requires a placement permit so we can ensure compliance with applicable critical areas, shorelines and zoning criteria,” Emery said. “And it also provides an opportunity for environmental health to ensure there’s adequate potable water supply and sewage disposal.”

The ordinance would treat the placement of a park model unit as an ADU, Emery said, meaning that only one park model can be placed on a property unless the property is a designated RV park.

DCD also is working on an ordinance that would allow local farms to run retail operations from their property. Currently, only farm stands or home enterprises — operations carried on entirely within the home — can operate without a permit. Larger operations such as using the farm as an event space require a conditional use permit.

Emery said the department started to receive several complaints over the summer about farms running operations that require permits. Several public outreach sessions were held throughout the county last fall and a draft ordinance is ready that would allow local farms to run certain kinds of businesses without a permit.

“We’ve developed a draft ordinance that allows for a range of uses that includes retail stores on site that retail agricultural products produced on-site or within the area,” Emery said.

DCD hopes to get the ordinance before the county commissioners in late February or early March before the agritourism season begins.