CCAR The Voice of Clark County Real Estate: Backyard Farming

Posted October 13, 2018 in Special Features

Rian Davis, Clark County WA real estate agent

In recent years, there has been a focus on being “local”, whether talking about food, shopping, or vacationing. Restaurants and stores proudly showcase their local goods, and the term “staycation” came into our vocabulary. This focus has perhaps been one of the primary drivers of the recent urban farming movement- wanting to know exactly where your food came from and keeping it local. For as long as people have put down roots and established “homes” for themselves, many have chosen to grow and raise their own food on their property. In addition to gardens, folks in rural areas commonly raise animals as well, whether for meat, milk, or eggs. While raising animals on large tracts of land is nothing new, there has been a recent trend of homeowners bringing farming to suburban and even urban neighborhoods. Backyard chickens, beehives, and even goats and pigs are now not so uncommon, especially across the river in Portland.

Many organizations and governments recognize the benefits to growing your own food, especially in areas underserved by grocery stores, as a way to incorporate healthy food into a person’s diet, usually at a cost savings. However, this can create issues for city code officials, neighborhood associations, and potentially impact property values if a neighbor’s backyard farm creates a nuisance. Local governments are tasked with weighing the benefits of a person growing some, if not all, of their own food, as well as their right as a property owner to do so, with some of the possible negative impacts to their neighbors- smells, noise, and unkept conditions that can have a direct impact on their ability to enjoy their property.

Many cities and counties have responded with regulations that attempt to allow property owners the benefit of raising animals in their backyard, while also trying to mitigate any issue that could arise for neighbors. Some areas do not allow roosters since they create more noise, while others limit the number of animals that can reside in a backyard. Zoning and lot size come into play when determining how big of a farm someone can have, not to mention any additional regulations imposed by a homeowners association.

Beekeeping has been encouraged in some areas, given their vital role in pollination and the impact their decline would have on food supplies. However, residential beekeeping can have its challenges and carry liability for the homeowners since the bees are not enclosed to the property as animals might be. It is important for a residential beekeeper to understand the behavior of bees and be conscious of any walkways or public spaces that their bee colony may impact.

If you are considering adding animals or bees to your backyard, here are a couple tips. First, check with your local city or county and see what restrictions your property has related to the type of animal or animals you wish to bring to your property. Many times, the improvements that need to be made to a yard to accommodate the animals are not cheap, so best to check on what is allowed and avoid flushing money down the drain. Also, if you have a homeowners association, ask the same questions of them! Second, talk to your neighbors. Many times, issues can be avoided if conversations are had, and possible complications can be identified and remedied before animals are brought in or expensive improvements to your property are made. Once you have animals or bees on your property, be a good neighbor and keep a close eye on any impacts you may have on those around you. And don’t forget to share some of those awesome backyard eggs too!

Rian Davis
Public Affairs Director
Clark County Association of REALTORS®