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Accessory Dwelling Units to Support Farm Transitions

Brandt-Sargent, Bethany

America’s farmers are aging. Not all farmers have family members willing to operate the family farm, leaving them searching for creative ways to transition off the farm, but ensure its continued success. One of these ways is through land use tools, specifically Accessory Dwelling Units. This paper examines the different tools and how they’ve been implemented across the country, and locally. Land use tools to support agriculture are extensive. Accessory dwelling units, transfer of development rights, conservation easements, and clustering ordinances are all very different tools that can be used individually or together to support agriculture, land preservation, and the environment. Accessory dwelling units are secondary homes placed on a parcel for many reasons: affordable housing, housing diversity, increased density, supporting agriculture. Transfer of development rights separates the development rights from the remaining property rights and then transfers them to an area where density is desired. This prevents any future development from occurring on that parcel. Conservation easements place an easement on the property that prevents any future development. In exchange for the easement, the property owner is compensated through lower land costs and thus lower property taxes. Finally, clustering ordinances allows parcels to be subdivided into smaller than permitted lots, leaving a large natural parcel for conservation. These tools have been used across the country in various forms. Clackamas County Oregon has strict growth boundaries paired with accessory dwelling unit ordinances that have led to decreased land consumption and stronger agriculture. Fauquier County, Virginia has very lenient tenant housing ordinances that makes it easy for farmers to add housing when necessary. Locally, two farmers and their families are searching for creative ways to transition off the farm. Marshwatch Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture operation in Scott County, Minnesota is searching for a field manager they can groom into a full farm manager. They would like to remain on the property to provide guidance but are struggling to find ways to add housing for their fulltime and seasonal workers. Garden Farme is a 100-year family farm, certified organic operation that sells its produce to local restaurants and cooperatives. The owner of the farm has a friendly and open relationship with the city administrator and planning department, which has lead to many discussions surrounding the best options to move forward.

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Prepared in partnership with Renewing the Countryside by the Community Assistantship Program (CAP), which is administered by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
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