October 29, 2019
Meeting was called to order by Carol Johnson at 7:30am.
Peggy gave a history moment.
Jim M. moved to accept Oct. 15 meeting minutes, second by Jack G. Motion passed. Dick P. moved to accept Oct. 22 meeting minutes, second by Jim M. Motion passed.
Matt Jordan, Ian Nickel, Christie Cox.
Kiwanis this Thursday, 12:30pm at Joshua’s features OMC Hospital Commissioner candidates Ann Marie Henninger and Nate Adkisson.
Kaj reported that the North Olympic Legislative Alliance is active and please contact him to participate.
Soroptimist International sand and sold their Elegant Gourmet coupon books.
Program: County Farmland Conservation
Commissioner Randy Johnson talked about conservation futures or easements to facilitate farmland conservation. A tax of 2-3/4 cents per thousand would be levied against all households. He has visited both Realtor associations, the North Peninsula Builder Association and West End Business Association.
The easement would be purchased with money from the tax fund, maintaining that the land can only be used as a farm and not subdivided. A farmer who is retiring, and a buyer who is willing, participate. The value of farmland is below market value due to development and market value, and the biggest challenge for new farms is acquiring land.
These farms have employees and are part of the community and economy. Finn River alone in Chimacum has about 100 employees.
Joe Holtrop talked about how the Conservation District advocates for protecting farms and forest and supports the land trust.
Liam from the North Olympic Land Trust said all counties except Mason and Clallam have implemented a conservation fund. Spokane used it for waterfront, Clark for fish and wildlife habitat, as examples.
Clallam used to have 70,000 acres of working agricultural land and now has about 15,000. So far NOLT has helped with 500 acres of easements over decades.
Randy said NPBA suggested a 10-year sunset clause. Realtor reactions ranged from use the maximum tax to no tax at all. Changing the Growth Management Act was suggested by that takes a very long time. In answer to critical areas and wetland as part of farmland, he said this needs to be clarified. There also is no dual tax benefit, it will still be taxed as farmland.
This is a tax. For a $250K property you would have $6.80 which, for the county, adds up to about a quarter million dollars. It benefits the farming community which is a major benefit for visitors and the reason people move here. The county will not acquire any farmland.
Mary Ellen Winborn suggested adding open space to the ordinance to facilitate access to water and restoration projects. People come here because it’s beautiful.
Randy supports the tax and doesn’t know about the other commissioners. Kaj asked what happens if next generation farmers don’t want the farm, what happens to the land. Liam replied the biggest issue young farmers have is finding land and several young farmers have moved here over the years. Kaj suggested clarifying messaging to the public.
Joe H. said they would not add to existing farmland. Liam added he wants to hang onto what we have now. Farmers can lease farmland out to others if next generation doesn’t want to use it.
Steve B. moved to extend the meeting up to 15 minutes, second by Kaj. Motion passed.
The easement is permanent and means teh parcel can only be sold in that one lot. It will be valued as farmland because the right to develop is given up. The sunset clause means at 10 years they will look at goals and objectives and determine if it was a success.
Will preserving farmland affect the ballot measure for affordable housing? Randy said Sequim will run out of lots in 2065 at their current rate of development. If affordable housing is accomplished through government you pay much more, hundreds per square foot. Private enterprise is the answer. Liam said there is a vigorous valuation process for appraising farmland.
Jim M. suggested removing critical areas from the effort citing lawful expenditure of funds and asked if this land purchased comes off tax rolls. This scenario would fit the purchase of parks but not farmland. Randy agreed it may be appropriate to rethink the idea of more land coming off tax rolls but this farmland would remain taxed. The county maintains the development rights and may contract with NOLT.
Meeting adjourned at 8:45am.