A proposal to allow development of 20-acre parcels adjacent to larger farms and forestland received a second hearing before the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.
The commissioners did not take immediate action on the proposal. At Commissioner Tim Freeman’s suggestion, they agreed to give Planning Director Keith Cubic another 30 days to work on the proposal.
The “nonresource lands” designation would allow 20-acre parcels on land that has little or no value for natural resource uses like agriculture or timber. Cubic said about 30,000 acres, or 1 percent of the county’s land, would be eligible for the designation, mostly land along the Interstate 5 corridor that could be a buffer between urban or rural residential land and high-value farm or forestlands.
The new designation would fill a need for families seeking large, open-space lots that offer a “4-H type of lifestyle,” he said.
The idea drew mixed reactions from about a dozen people who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing.
Richard Holcomb of Elkton said allowing 20-acre parcels next to larger agricultural lands would be a “recipe for conflict.” That’s because ranch owners need to spray and burn and conduct other activities that smaller landowners wouldn’t understand.
“It’s not a good mix. I can guarantee you that,” he said.
He also said much of the land being designated “nonresource” can actually be used productively by people who know how to manage it for livestock and other uses.
“They’re being sold short of what their capabilities are,” he said.
David Kennedy of Metz Hill moved to the United States from Ireland and operates two large ranches in Douglas County. He said he opposes the plan because he believes the land here is as productive as land anywhere. Like Holcomb, Kennedy said a rancher who knows how to look after the land will be able to use it.
“I don’t think there is any nonresource land in Douglas County,” he said.
Kennedy said he fears if 20-acre parcels are allowed in agricultural areas, “there’s not going to be many ranches in Douglas County.”
Jasmine Denny said she supports the 20-acre parcels because families like hers that want to have room for small farming and 4-H need it. She said there’s a shortage of that type of land in Douglas County.
“I’m totally for it. I think it’s a good idea,” she said.
Fred Dayton, who owns a 20-acre parcel in Dixonville, said he hasn’t seen the kind of conflict opponents talked about.
He said he thinks the idea is a good one.
“People are looking for a rural lifestyle and that can be created without conflict,” he said.