A farm building is a farm building - and it shouldn't be used for anything else, Douglas County commissioners say.
That's why last month they approved a regulation requiring anyone constructing a new outbuilding in a rural area for agricultural purposes to complete a form available at the Douglas County Zoning and Codes office, 2108 W. 27th St.
"The process is streamlined, there's no cost and they'll be going about their business very quickly," Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said.
The county already had a requirement that a permit was needed to construct outbuildings in a rural area if the building was to be used for a purpose other than agriculture. Building codes also have to be met. The permit fee is based on a formula involving the cost of the structure and property valuation, said Keith Dabney, zoning and codes director.
No permit is needed and there is no fee for constructing an agriculture building. In addition, it doesn't have to meet building codes.
Some property owners have taken advantage of that by using the agriculture exemption as a guise. Then there are others who don't know what the permit regulations are, Dabney said.
There have been plenty of instances when someone has claimed a machine storage building, for example, is for agriculture when it was actually being used for other purposes, Dabney said.
"They may have a tractor, but they also have a boat, jet skis and other things that aren't agriculture," he said. "I've seen it over and over again."
A permit and exemption process is necessary to clearly identify the purpose of a building, Johnson said.
The agriculture regulation is fairly strict, Dabney said. It specifically mentions building use for propagation of crops and animal husbandry, he said.
Rural landowners need to understand that if they build a building for agriculture purposes, it probably isn't going to meet other standards if someone wants to use it for another purpose in the future, Johnson said.
"What we want to say to people is don't create a problem for yourself, and don't create a problem for a purchaser," he said.
Before commissioners passed the regulation, Johnson and Dabney spent a year talking to local farm groups discussing the issue with them and seeking comments.
"We tried to keep as many people in the agriculture community involved as we could," Johnson said.
Bill Wood, agricultural agent with Kansas State University's Douglas County Extension Service, said he has not heard any complaints or opposition to what commissioners did. Wood is chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce's Agriculture Business Committee and he said the county had kept the committee informed of its plans.
"I don't think any of them had any major issues with it," Wood said of committee members.