Like Washington County Commissioner Jim Wade, we share a concern about the wide-open nature of agricultural zoning. This week Wade faulted the county board for failing to address the issue. In fact, it is being reviewed by the county's planning commission as part of an update of the county's comprehensive plan that will begin this fall. That rewrite will take up to a year, but it's the right way to ensure all points of view get a fair hearing.
Zoning was passed here in the early 1970s with the support of the farm community, which wanted assurances built into the ordinance that if farming ever became unprofitable, farmers could sell their land for other purposes.
The other side of this argument is that the houses built on the one-acre lots allowed in agricultural zoning seldom generate enough taxes for the services families living there require, like schools. Over the years, the county has tried to address this through subdivision rules, the Adequate Facilities Ordinance and Urban Growth Area legislation.