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Livestock regulations to be clarified

The Kitsap County Planning Commission is in the midst of drafting a new ordinance to determine how many large animals should occupy small parcels of land.

The need for such a rule reflects how the region accomodates the transition from rural to urban, while still maintaining a rustic flavor.

“Kitsap County is a mix of urban and rural, so land conflicts exist,” said Department of Community Development director Kamuron Gurol. “We try to strike a balance with new ordinances and attempt to be consistent and reasonable. But this is an artifact of growth; you don’t know you have a problem until it happens.”

“The current regulations are overly restrictive and prohibitive,” said Eric Baker, the department’s manager of land use and environmental planning. “We want to provide flexibility in the code where it does not exist.”

Currently, landowners with five acres or less must adhere to a set limit on large animals with no redress available. For examplee, you are allowed to have one cow on 1.5 acres of land, and one additional cow for every extra acre. A determination table exists, where one cow is equivalent to five sheep or 12 chickens.

In most cases, the county examines offenses after complaints by neighbors, since there is no one who regularly patrols for code violations.

Once the lot size exceeds five acres, there is no legal limit as to the number of large animals, even though they are still governed by setback regulations (the distance between the livestock and the street or stream).

Under the proposed code, people who want to exceed the limit can request site-specific consideration. Here, an inspector will determine the impact of additional animals on the water and sewer system and grant permission based on these findings.

One of the uncertainties of the new ordinance, according to Gurol, is whether it will only impose livestock population restrictions on small properties or parcels of all sizes.

“Today, farming isn’t just orchards and cows,” he said. “There are a lot of alternative farming methods in use, with exotic animals and different attitudes toward farming. There are all kinds of new ways to make money.”

Some feel such an ordinance is unnecessary and intrusive.

“I don’t think we need anything,” said Dale Bourgeois, a Poulsbo horse owner. “We already have too many ordinances already. Government is getting too involved. The average property owner knows what to do. They’re proud of their land and they maintain safe distances to the water.”

Bourgeois feels the people in charge don’t have the necessary understanding of the issues and experience to write an effective ordinance.

“We may need some kind of ordinance in the future,” he said. “But we should educate people when they apply for a permit, not use a rubber stamp to treat everyone the same way. We need people in the county who will work with everybody and not take anybody’s land away.”

The Planning Commission meeting occurs 9 a.m. Thursday at the Eagle’s Nest on the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and is open to the public.

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