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Agritourism and Rural Tourism in Washington County

Agritourism in Washington County, Oregon

Community Planning staff may revisit agritourism and rural tourism related to the possible implementation of Senate Bill 960, passed in 2011. The bill allows counties to develop regulations for agritourism in exclusive farm use districts. Jurisdictions in Oregon have the option to adopt all, some or none of the legislation.

In 2014, we released Issue Paper No. 2014-02 - Agritourism in Washington County. Issues identified included:

  • Ensuring farm use is protected
  • Enforcement
  • Noise
  • Parking
  • Traffic
  • Farm use conflicts
  • Number of events
  • Event saturation

After considering the Issue Paper, the Board of County Commissioners directed us to further clarify agritourism opportunities.

Agritourism-Rural Tourism Study Cover Image

We released the Rural Tourism Study Report for public comment in 2016. The report broadly defines rural tourism as activity above and beyond traditional farm and ranch use that attracts visitors to rural areas. Examples include farm-to-fork dinners, corporate and celebratory gatherings, recreational events, farm stand visits, overnight stays and more. The report includes key findings on agriculture, rural tourism, rural tourism regulation and possible impacts.

The Rural Tourism Study: Follow-Up Report on Citizen Comments and Options for Future Actions was released in 2017. We heard from interested parties who shared the following thoughts:

  • Farmers: Protect farms; provide safe and efficient roads for shared use by agricultural and shipping vehicles, as well as visiting and commuting motorists and bicyclists.
  • Rural tourism hosts/advocates: Allow activities with reasonable restrictions; expand motorist and bike routes, lodging, and access to nature.
  • Rural residents: Protect farm, forest and residential uses, especially from impacts due to amplified sound, traffic, frequency and hours of events and activities at vacation rentals.

Findings for future action include:

  • General policy support for rural economic growth to preserve farm/forest and rural residential well-being
  • Consider Community Development Code amendments to:
    • Clarify allowed rural tourism uses
      • Adopt agritourism provisions of Senate Bill (SB) 960 on resource farmlands
      • Allow some additional visitor-oriented uses in other rural districts
    • Consider other County regulatory changes
    • Produce educational materials

Revisiting recommendations of the Rural Tourism Study Report is a Tier 2 Task in FY 2021-22 Long Range Planning Annual Work Program.