Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias talks about Conservation Futures before commissioners approve the property tax in a 2-to-1 vote Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias talks about Conservation Futures before commissioners approve the property tax in a 2-to-1 vote Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam County approves tax to preserve farms

Conservation Futures fund approved on 2-1 vote

PORT ANGELES — In a rare 2-to-1 vote, Clallam County Commissioners have approved a property tax that is intended to preserve farmland.

Commissioners Randy Johnson and Mark Ozias each voted in favor of the measure Tuesday, while Commissioner Bill Peach opposed it.

All commissioners agreed after a public hearing earlier this month that the Conservation Futures fund should be limited to only farmland preservation, and not be used on open spaces, critical areas or public access to water.

“While I have individually advocated for maintaining a broad range of potential uses for this fund, I think where we ended up with a focus on working ag land is appropriate given the feedback … that we got in our public outreach,” Ozias said. “I am quite pleased with the language we ended up with.”

Under state law, the Board of County Commissioners has the authority to pass — without a vote of the people — a property tax to create a fund that is used to purchase development rights to preserve farms, agricultural land, park land, open areas and public access to water.

Clallam County commissioners approved a property tax to preserve farmland during their meeting Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam County commissioners approved a property tax to preserve farmland during their meeting Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The ordinance sets a levy at $0.0275 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which Johnson said would raise about $250,000 each year. That would be an additional $6.88 per year for a home valued at $250,000.

When a land owner receives a payment from the Conservation Futures program, that property owner still owns the land and is still required to pay property tax. The only restriction is that the land must continue to be farmed.

Ozias said he hopes the county can now “salvage the agricultural economy in Clallam County.”

Johnson has said that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Clallam County has gone from 70,000 acres of farmland in the 1930s to about 17,000 acres of farmland now.

He said Tuesday the ordinance requires the county to examine in 10 years whether it was effective. If not, the commissioners can dissolve it.

Peach, who voted against the measure, said he appreciated the transparency of the process.

“We had the opportunity to listen to both sides of the issue and it’s not the case all the commissioners agree all the time, and this is an example,” Peach said. “What I do appreciate is we are open with the public about what is being proposed.

“Fundamentally my objection is to a new tax. It’s a worthy project and I wish we could afford it another way,” Peach said.

He said he appreciates that the focus of the ordinance is on farms.

The ordinance also creates an advisory board that consists of five voting members, one from each of the three county districts and two at-large members.

Non-voting ex-officio members include the North Olympic Land Trust director or designee, the Clallam Conservation District director or designee, the Clallam County habitat biologist or designee, the Washington State University Extension agent and representatives from one or more tribal governments.

Term limits are limited to four years.

The board would make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners, which would then have the final say in how funds are used.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

Air Force to clean up station

EPA plans to oversee Neah Bay operation

Appraisal for Short’s Farm less than port expected

Port of PT considering purchase to support local agriculture growth

Artwork by Sixkiller, contemporary Cherokee artist, is on display in House of Learning, Peninsula College Longhouse now through March.
Cherokee artist to speak on Grandma Spider

Contemporary Cherokee artist Karen Sixkiller will speak on “Rediscovering… Continue reading

Jefferson PUD plans to standardize broadband fees

Some internet providers in Jefferson County may see their… Continue reading

Port Angeles Community Award recipients gather after Saturday night’s fifth annual awards gala, including, from left, Joe DeScala, representing 4PA, organization of the year; Dr. Gerald Stephanz, citizen of the year; Tommy Harris, young leader of the year; Natalie Snow, Katelyn Sheldon and Andrea Dean, representing Welly’s Real Fruit Ice Cream, emerging business of the year; and Hayley Sharpe, owner of MOSS, business of the year. Not present was John Gallagher, educator of the year. The awards are produced by the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Sound Publishing. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Community awards distributed at chamber gala

Six categories featured as event returns in person

One hurt in wreck at 104-Shine intersection

A Poulsbo woman was treated and discharged from Harborview Medical… Continue reading

Brock Tejeda, a high school senior, fits together his carefully crafted pieces of wood to make a step stool just like the larger finished sample on the left. Port Angeles High School hosted a Skills USA Olympic Regional contest in the woodshop at the school on Saturday. The contest involved students making in eight hours from precise directions a small step stool using their skills and the shop’s many tools and machines. Joe Shideler is the woodshop teacher, but retired woodshop teacher Tim Branham was the enabler who brought the contest back to the school after a four-year COVID absence. There were five high school contestants including one girl. Skills USA sponsors over 50 skills across the country. PAHS participated in the carpentry and precision machinery areas. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)
Skills contest

Brock Tejeda, a high school senior, fits together his carefully crafted pieces… Continue reading

Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group
About 100 people gathered in support of Sequim School District's proposed CTE building at Sequim City Council's last meeting. More than 20 people spoke in favor of the project in a public hearing.
Sequim council approves $250K for CTE facility

City’s contribution part of effort to raise $1 million

Monroe Athletic Field
Bidding opens for Monroe Athletic Field

Slated for completion this fall

Most Read