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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Alachua County to expand zoning for tourists looking to stay on farmland

New on-farm accommodations could lead to county agritourism

Visitors to Alachua County could soon spend their vacations camping on local farms after a recent commission decision.

The Alachua County Commission voted 3-1 Tuesday to adopt a proposal adding farm stays as a new form of overnight accommodation, similar to hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. 

Commissioners Charles Chestnut, Raemi Eagle-Glenn and Anna Prizzia voted in favor of the ordinance, with Marihelen Wheeler in dissent and Ken Cornell absent.

Farm stays traditionally are more interactive than standard overnight boarding, allowing guests to tour barns, ride horses or otherwise learn about rural life.

While tourists can already rent out rural Airbnbs and similar suites in the county, they have to stay within the same single-family home the owner resides at.

The new amendment instead lets guests stay in tents, RVs or cabins directly on rural properties, allowing a maximum of four units of six renters at any given lot. Participants can also stay longer, up to 90 maximum days as opposed to B&B’s 30. 

Lodging guests could help provide for the county’s agricultural workers, who make up 17.5% of the workforce according to UF’s Institute of Food Agricultural and Sciences. By being hosts and renting out their land, local farmers can find a secondary source of income.

The new amendment’s potential for increased tourism could bring needed revenue locally, Eagle-Glenn said.“This is good for the county for economic development,” Eagle-Glenn said.

To be eligible, properties have to have 5 acres of agricultural-zoned land and an owner living on or next to the farmland.

Some public members voiced concerns that nearby residents may experience noise disturbances from guests. The amendment currently requires all lodging to be 50 feet away from other property lines.

Event areas like wedding venues are typically under different requirements than those in place for farm stays, Eagle-Glenn said.

Regulating farm stays also ensures these areas meet state fire safety, sanitation and building codes.

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The amendment is effective as soon as the Department of State receives and files it.

Contact Aidan at Follow him on Twitter @aidandisto.

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Aidan Bush

Aidan Bush is a second-year journalism major and the city and county commission reporter for the Alligator. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Citrus County Chronicle. When not writing, he enjoys creating videos, water activities and spending time with his friends.

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