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Rural housing pilot could save farmland

Comments being taken through March 21

A pilot program being considered to allow small bunches of townhomes or apartments on the county's big farmland homesteads could solve two problems facing ag today, says a supporter of introducing the concept of agrivillages to the county.
It would let younger-age farmers live and work on shared land they often can't afford to buy themselves, and it would create a collective of farmers, the representative for a proposed agrivillage in north county, Dave Boehnlein, told the planning commission earlier this month.
The program would also protect farmland and woods from being redeveloped into the cloistered subdivisions the county allows in rural areas, a staff memo notes. When those get built, no farmland is leftover.
Called the county's Rural Village Housing program, it's for parcels zoned Rural Residential 5-acre.
The minimum acreage size to apply in the pilot program would be 100 acres. At least 85% of the land must be kept undeveloped as rural open space. The County Council may tweak these figures when it comes to them in coming weeks.
It's "a temporary way to test new housing types in some rural settings," county council legislative analyst Ryan Countryman explained.
The agrivillage which Boehnlein and supporters want to build is a cohousing site called Rooted Northwest on the former 240-acre Tillman Family Dairy farm east of Arlington.
The agrivillage would sell homes-to-own that include farmland, Boehnlien said. An ag committee would decide farm sizes based on purpose.
It's not known if the rural village pilot would spark anything others than the Arlington agrivillage, Countryman told the planning commission earlier this month.
County Councilman Nate Nehring sponsored the rural village proposal and helped shepherd it through planning.
"From my perspective, this is a unique win-win scenario where farmland will be preserved without sacrificing housing affordability," Nehring said by email.
Snohomish County's program could be the first "agri-hood" ordinance in the entire state, said Kathryn Gardow, a consultant whose life has focused on farmland preservation and food advocacy.
Comments to the planning department on the program are being taken until 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 21. To send comments, contact Ryan Countryman at or 425-309-6164.


In the print version of this story, Dave Boehnlein's name was misspelled. The Tribune regrets the error.



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