Letters to the Editor

Farm plan inspector needed

The controversy swirling around farm plans is understandable. On the one hand is our old European belief that when people buy property it is private, (“a man’s home is his castle”) and we don’t want some self-appointed, watchdog group snooping around. On the other hand, if a neighbor is doing something that damages our home such as allowing tainted water to run down the hill and wash away our garden, we want to be able to stop it — and the earth is our home. Maybe there is a way to satisfy both ideas. 

When you build a house, you need to first have a plan drawn by an architect or designer, which is then taken to the Building Department and it is examined to see if it meets the Uniform Building Code (UBC). If there are things that don’t meet the code it is noted and corrections are required.  Once the plan is approved you are allowed to start construction.

During construction a county building inspector stops by to see that it is being constructed according to the plan and in compliance with the UBC.  The architect is trained in the codes, designs the house to comply with them, but does not enforce them  —  but will work with the builders to correct any discrepancies. Building plans are handled privately. I would not go to the Building Department and demand to see my neighbor’s plans.

So when you buy property (with some lower size limit, say 5 acres?) you would be required to have a farm plan designed, by the Conservation District, or a private planner, which would go to the Health Department and be examined to see if it complied with codes. In this case I would suggest the Best Management Practices (BMPs) of the National Resource Conservation Service. When approved, implementation of the plan could start.  Periodically a county farm plan inspector would stop by to see that the plan was being followed in compliance with the BMPs. As an architect doesn’t enforce building codes, so the Conservation District would not enforce BMPs — but would work with the land owner to correct any discrepancies. Better yet the Conservation District is often able to get funds to help with the implementation, such as building fences to protect streams, or a facility to handle manure disposal. Farm plans would be handled privately with only the county inspectors working with them.

This would require some people in the Health Department to be trained in the BMPs and made able to go out on inspections. It would cost the county some money, but building a house has little, if any, affect on neighbors and usually affects only the folks that live there, whereas developing property can have a big affect on neighbors near and far, including polluting the earth. It would seem to me that, from a societal point of view, farm plans should be more important than building plans. 

Duke LeBaron

Langley

Community Events, April 2014

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