Woodland has taken a step forward to change its zoning code so the agricultural nature of some of the properties brought into city limits can be retained.
During its April 4 meeting, the Woodland City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance with a 4-0 vote to establish an agricultural zoning designation in the city. The ordinance is the latest attempt by Woodland to address the impacts the city’s long-term planning could have on farmland located in the Woodland Bottoms, which is situated south of the city limits.
The city’s planning commission began looking at the code change in November, according to the ordinance, and ultimately approved a recommendation unanimously to add the agricultural zoning designation on March 17.
The code change came to fruition because the city is looking at potentially expanding its urban growth area, which is something the city looked into a few years back. Beginning in late 2018, the city started to analyze changes to its comprehensive plan, which could have brought more than 600 acres into the urban growth area. That land included the area in the Woodland Bottoms.
The city council ultimately did not approve the addition of land in the Woodland Bottoms into the urban growth area, according to the comprehensive plan map adopted in 2019. Placement in the growth area allows for future annexation into the city as laid out in the state’s Growth Management Act.
The recommended code is largely based on zoning already in place in Cowlitz County. While the planning commission considered the code change, the Port of Woodland raised concerns about the potential impacts in regards to employee housing, pheasant hunting, and cannabis production and processing.
The port specifically had concerns on the impact employee housing in the agricultural designation would have on water and sewer utilities. In a staff report, Woodland Community Development concluded the city’s utilities “must be considered” for any impacts on septic or well water systems that might be overburdened by agriculture uses if a property is annexed.
The port noted Woodland Bottoms has traditionally been the site of pheasant hunting, which under the current city code would likely be prohibited. The planning commission recommended making recreational hunting a “special use” permitted in agricultural zoning.
The community development department noted existing and proposed code wouldn’t allow marijuana production and processing in agricultural zoning.
The council only briefly discussed the code change at the April 4 meeting. Councilors Jennifer Rowland and Monte Smith were absent.
Woodland Community Development Director Travis Goddard said the lack of an agriculture designation is a point of resistance that was raised during discussions about the Woodland Bottoms and the city’s comprehensive plan. During the prior discussions, pushback about the growth area expansion largely focused on diminishing the rural character of the Woodland Bottoms.
Having those uses in code serves as “an extra tool … to protect property owners who are concerned about premature development,” he said.
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