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An ordinance designed to provide more policy guidance to “agritourism” and other public agricultural experiences in Linn County was tabled by the Linn County Board of Supervisors Monday, Oct. 2, as county officials look to gather more input from current agricultural experience providers. The ordinance has been under consideration for about two years, Linn County planning and development director Charlie Nichols said, and was scheduled for a public hearing and first consideration Monday. But he noted that board chair Louie Zumbach had requested the item be pulled from Monday’s agenda to allow for more input. “There are a lot of individuals who are paying close attention to it,” Mr. Nichols said, “so I think it makes sense to get a bit more targeted outreach, particularly from the Linn County Farm Bureau. I think taking that extra time to get that input makes sense here.” As proposed, the ordinance would provide a definition of agritourism and public agricultural experiences, which are generally considered to be agriculturally-based operations or activities that bring visitors to a farm or ranch. Examples in Linn County include Kroul Farms and Bass Farms, both near Mount Vernon, and Allen’s Orchard in Marion. Linn County officials have gathered input from agritourism operators in neighboring counties, such as Bloomsbury Farm near Atkins and Wilson’s Orchard near Iowa City, to formulate a proposed ordinance. The ordinance would help clarify permitting and other legal requirements for such operations, including site plans and property line setbacks. It would also include guidance on issues such as parking requirements. Mr. Nichols noted that after county officials had outlined an initial version of the agritourism ordinance, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill prohibiting counties from requiring zoning permits for agritourism operations. As a result, Linn County officials felt there was a need to outline specific agritourism policies and sought input from current providers on their needs and goals. “I think the concern the first time around is that we might have inadvertently been making things more difficult for current operators, which is not our intent,” Mr. Nichols said. “We don't want to add more red tape or steps here. Our intent is to provide a pathway for some of those larger uses to operate and not have issues with Linn County.” Agritourism operations are generally viewed favorably by county officials, Mr. Nichols said. “We think these are good uses in Linn County,” he said. They hit on a lot of our comprehensive plan goals. They also encompass a lot of different activities. Wilson's Orchard is a great example. They do a you-pick operation, they have hayrack rides and live music events almost every weekend. They also have a restaurant and event venue on site. So it's a lot of different things. We think these are good things to have. And when we started this process two years ago, we didn’t really have anything in our code that permits these types of uses.” The proposed ordinance also distinguishes between Tier I agricultural experiences, such as temporary roadside farm stands, and larger Tier II operations that may include longer-term ventures such as a winery, brewery, cider mill, distillery, bar or restaurant, farm store, event space, banquet hall, reception facility or wedding venue. “There's a lot of other regulatory agencies that get involved with these types of operations, such as liquor licenses,” Mr. Nichols said. “Often public health is involved if there are food trucks on site or some other types of food items. So our ordinance does state that other permits are required if it's a Tier 2 use.” The ordinance will now be considered at a future meeting, supervisors decided. A specific date wasn’t immediately set.