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Partners and Resources - Agriculture

The county’s “Long Term Agriculture” zoning designation was expanded in 2007 in response to legal challenges to the Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinances. The designation applies to parcels that may be of lasting commercial value for agriculture. The areas are zoned using criteria such as the nature and depth of viable soils and the presence of critical areas. This zoning district provides an opportunity to use the land for agricultural uses alongside prairie habitat management. At the very least, the LTA zoning district prevents the encroachment of residential subdivisions on prairie habitat.

Agritourism is a booming industry in Thurston County. Agritourism refers to any activity that attracts visitors to a farm or ranch. Agritourists can choose from a wide range of activities, including picking fruits and vegetables, riding horses, tasting honey, learning about wine and cheese making, or shopping in farm gift shops and farm stands for local hand-crafted goods. Thurston County developed an Agritourism Overlay District (AOD) to keep agricultural lands economically viable to prevent converting them into uses that aren’t as compatible with prairie habitat. Relaxed zoning regulations give landowners the opportunity to keep their property in agricultural use, earn extra income and share their agricultural heritage with others.

The Transfer of Development Rights Program provides an opportunity for working-land owners to sell their development rights without having to sell their entire property for development. Under this approach, the rural character and agricultural economy of Thurston County is preserved, and working-land owners have the opportunity to realize some of the true market value of their land without having to sell the land altogether for urban development.

When you purchase property, you get more than just the land – you get rights over how the land is used, including mineral rights, development rights and water rights. Those rights can be sold or transferred without affecting the land itself. Under a TDR program, the owner of working lands can sell the development rights from the land to somebody in an urban area. The rights are sold in the form of credits, and the buyer can use those credits to develop land at a different density than local zoning would normally allow. TDR programs help preserve working lands, because the landowners can benefit from the true market value of their development rights, without having to sell the land altogether to a developer. Meanwhile, the buyer of those rights has greater flexibility in developing land within certain zoning areas. It’s a way to shift development away from rural areas and into urban areas.

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Interested Parties: If you would like to be added to our Web Mail list, please click here. Staff contact: Andrew Deffobis, Associate Planner. Phone: (360) 754-3355, ext. 5467. E-mail: deffoba@co.thurston.wa.us.

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