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Island clarifies ag and farm land use codes

Rooster Rodget Ramjet, named after a cartoon in the 1960s, lives on the property of Linda Meier off Eagle Harbor Drive. - Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo
Rooster Rodget Ramjet, named after a cartoon in the 1960s, lives on the property of Linda Meier off Eagle Harbor Drive.
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo

Stifling a chuckle, Councilor Bob Scales told the council about his encounters with some “real nasty roosters that didn’t always play nice with his hens.”

Councilor Hilary Franz, who is also an island farmer, couldn’t hold back her astonishment when urban-dwelling councilman Barry Peters attempted to ask whether a rooster was necessary for the production of eggs.

Joking aside, the decision of where roosters will be permitted on the island represents one of many important policy decisions being addressed in the city’s land use code update.

Wednesday’s council meeting is the result of hundreds of man hours already spent by city officials, the city's Planning Commission and citizens, who are currently addressing the agricultural portion of the code. The goal, city officials say, is to continue to promote agriculture on the island and to clear up inconsistencies in the code. But thus far the agriculture section has already stirred up many differing opinions about the future of farming on the island.

Agriculture has a storied history on the island and many community members have already addressed the importance of maintaining the rural character of the island.

Over the last several years the popularity of small-scale, backyard farming has experienced a resurgence as more people look to eat from local sustainable food sources. In developing those food production resources many islanders have already been confronted with an inconsistent, confusing land code.

The existing municipal code is the result of blending the former City of Winslow and the Kitsap County land use codes. The code update process began in late 2007 and has continued with help from the Clarion Associates firm, the Planning Commission, council and numerous community members. Currently council is in the process of reviewing the recommendations that have been made thus far before formalizing them into an ordinance in June, leading up to a planned new code adoption in August.

Kelly Dickson, the planning departments project manager for the code update, said changes will primarily affect those with larger farming operations, but will ideally make the process easier.

“We are clarifying where it wasn’t very clear and dealing with an update for people who have the larger operations; not those with a small garden behind their house.”

One of the proposed modifications will make it easier for all island residents with a home to adopt the popular backyard chicken trend. Anyone with a house will be permitted to have up to five chickens on their property. Having a rooster, on the other hand, was a much more controversial discussion.

The planning department and commission have already disagreed during code update meetings about the merits of allowing roosters on the island, since the noisy birds have already created some land use disputes on the island and other parts of the county and state.

After much discussion, the council voted four to one with Franz as the no vote to allow roosters anywhere on the island, except in the downtown core. The council’s decision is not final, and citizens can continue to weigh in for the next several months until the code is adopted.

Brian Stahl, an island resident working for the Kitsap Conservation District, said the proposed changes are a starting point, but perhaps not the ideal standard.

“Before no one knew what kind of animals you could have or the level of management. There was no base line so people would call me for advice,” said Stahl.

Several of the proposed changes will provide more opportunities for agriculture retail and activities in some of the higher density locations on the island. For example, community gardens, which were previously not allowed in the mixed=use town center, High School Road area or light manufacturing areas. With the update those gardens would be permitted.

But some islanders are still concerned that promoting and preserving agriculture will not ultimately be achieved.

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