It’s been a long journey, but it’s one group’s hope that “agritourism” will officially come to Douglas County on Wednesday.
A proposal to establish agritourism as a land use in the county’s zoning regulations will go to the County Commission. The push to change the code began in 2010, and an amendment failed to pass last year. Mary Miller, the city-county planner presenting the amendment on Wednesday, said that adjustments to its language had been refined to better define agritourism. Merging with regulation already in place at the state level, the proposed amendment says: “Agritourism is the intersection of agriculture and tourism, when the public visits rural areas for recreation, education, enjoyment, entertainment, adventure or relaxation. Agritourism uses the rural experience as a tool for economic development.”
The amendment would allow landowners to bypass site plan proposals for activities like farmers’ markets, small-scale ancillary retail sales, winery tours, event rental or farm stays. Instead there would be areas zoned for such agriculture/tourism activities, and the county codes and planning departments would review their use, Miller said.
Commissioner Nancy Thellman was involved in the process and said that her hope was to “make it less cumbersome for farms to add another business angle” while “taking in consideration neighbors and the safety of people on the farms.”
Miller said that it was impossible to know how many businesses may be interested in getting permits, but that her office thought there was sufficient demand. The main goal is to promote revenue for farmers and the county through retail and tourism spending.
The County Commission will discuss agritourism beginning at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the County Courthouse, 1100 Mass. Other issues in front of the commission, which begins its first meeting at 4 p.m., include:
• Adoption of a new set of building codes. The proposal to switch to the 2012 international building code failed to pass in August because commissioners said they needed more feedback from builders.
• A proposal to use alcohol tax money for a renovation to the concession building at Lone Star Lake. It’s been empty for nearly 20 years, and the restroom near it may pose a water contamination threat, so the plan is to renovate part of the building to become a new restroom.
• Who will make the calls on changes to the roughly $6.6 million project to replace the emergency communications system? That will be discussed and a proposal put forward on how the project can be managed without bringing each issue to the commission.