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Farming in residential areas: Commerical crops bill to go before Nye commission

Commercial use of crops grown on certain residentially zoned properties in the Pahrump Valley could be curbed in the near future, with the Nye County Commission set to address a code change that would place restrictions on this activity during a public hearing to be held next month.

Some have expressed concern that the bill as proposed could, in turn, affect local farmers markets and the burgeoning hemp industry but Nye County Planning Director Brett Waggoner explained that there will likely be changes made to the draft proposal that would help assuage those concerns.

The main prompter for the proposed bill to amend Nye County Code title 17, which governs land use planning and zoning, appears to be connected to the rapid expansion of hemp production in the valley. In recent months, residents have been making regular complaints regarding the smell of the plant, which is currently only allowed to be grown in residential zones. There have also been questions about the water being utilized to grow a crop that is specifically for commercial use, as domestic well water is not intended for that purpose.

“These changes were requested by a couple of the board of county commission members and Pahrump Regional Planning Commission members to address numerous complaints from constituents concerning odors,” Waggoner detailed for the Pahrump Valley Times. “This also addresses concerns over whether or not appropriate water rights were permitted in the cases where domestic wells exist.”

The bill to amend the code targets three residential zones, Rural Estates-1, Rural Estates-2 and Suburban Estates, as well as Open Space zones. The changes themselves are quite simple, consisting of one line of language alteration in each of the sections pertaining to the four zones.

Under the permissive uses section for the three residential zones, the code currently allows for, “Farms for the raising/growing of tree and bush crops and/or field crops for commercial or personal household use.” The change as drafted rewords this to state, “Farms for personal household use.” The change in the Open Space section is much the same, adding the phrase “for personal household use” to the permissive use section that addresses agriculture and farming to clarify crops grown on Open Space land cannot be sold commercially.

Residential Rural Homestead 9.5 and Rural Homestead 4.5 zones would not be affected by the proposed bill.

When asked whether the proposed bill would impact farmers markets or the hemp industry, Waggoner acknowledged that yes, as written it could affect those activities. However, he continued, “I am expecting that issue to be addressed during the public hearing and suggestions being made to address those concerns. The planning staff are already working on suggested language to allow for hobby type uses that could allow for this type of farming activity.”

For those who are already growing crops on their residential land and selling them to others, there is no need to worry over any changes as grandfathering will come into play, Waggoner noted. “As for any farming operations currently in existence in the proposed zone amendments, those would be allowed to continue operation under a grandfathered status per Nye County Code 17.04.905.”

In addition, there will be options for residents wishing to start growing their own crops for commercial use as well. “As written, there would be the opportunity to apply for a waiver (of the restrictions),” Waggoner stated. “There may also be suggestions during the public hearing to allow (crops to be grown for commercial purposes) as a permissive use with the issuance and approval of a Conditional Use Permit.”

The public hearing on the proposed bill is set for Tuesday, Dec. 17 during the Nye County Commission’s regular meeting. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. inside the Nye County Commissioners’ Chambers, 2100 E. Walt Williams Drive.

To view the proposed bill visit www.nyecounty.net and click on the “Meeting Center” link. The document is included with the Nov. 19 commission agenda.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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