Tuesday, Lane County published their response to our statement. Public outreach has put pressure on the county to give us the permission we need to operate and keep our business alive. While we appreciate the response from the county, we would like to point out some specific details and correct the record that they have indicated.
On February 9, 2018 a Deputy State Fire Marshal did visit our site. This was the first fire inspection that has occurred since we opened in 2012. During that visit there were a few issues that were noted. In the verbal communication with the Fire Marshal words like "suggestion" and "advise" were used. No "orders" were issued. No paperwork was issued; the whole interaction was informal and friendly.
Based on that interaction we immediately began taking steps to comply with the Marshal's suggestions and advice. Extension cords previously used in our kitchen were replaced with plug strips with breakers as explicitly suggested by the Marshal. All doors utilized by the public in any capacity were re-hung to open out – as explicitly advised by the Marshal. Our fire extinguishers were serviced per the Marshal's suggestion as well.
The temporary stovetop utilized in our kitchen was originally our only processing option offered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The Fire Marshal's advice was in direct contradiction to the advice originally offered by the ODA about our requirements for a kitchen. The entire tone of the meeting with the Fire Marshal was informal and advice given therein was received as guidance, not as an order as indicated by the County. The county's characterization of this interaction is misleading – especially when used as precedent for a building inspection that would ultimately close our facility.
The county also referred to the site visit conducted on February 23 saying, "...the building official noted a variety of health and safety violations, including that the stove ordered removed by the fire marshal was back inside the kitchen." During that site visit the conversations with the building official communicated precisely zero health violations. We are proud of the food we serve and stand behind its quality and safety. Any violations noted by the building official were not communicated to the staff in writing. The notice posted on the front of the building prohibiting public entrance is the only paperwork we have received related to "safety," and it lists zero details regarding specific violations.
The county describes submittal of incomplete Special Use Permit Applications. To be clear, applications submitted require a month of review before they are deemed complete or not, and the information they seek to complete the application is dependent upon the inspector reviewing the application. This is not a process whereupon objective standards must be met to satisfy code. Not satisfying complex code requirements and failing to explain congruence with obscure land use decisions are more than enough to deem an application incomplete. The final SUP submitted by Agrarian was over 30 pages in length.
The County's own timeline indicates the lengthy process by which Agrarian has sought to comply with a complex set of codes. The County's own timeline mentions building permits twice; once in 2015 and not again until 2018. No notices were ever issued related to "health and safety," as the County has characterized it's enforcement action.
The first clarification of our need to comply with building codes was the posting prohibiting the general public from our facility. Moreover for an agency that requires 30 days to acknowledge the completeness of an application to allow only 10 days to contact them regarding any issue creates the appearance of a double standard. The informal nature of the contacts made by the County did not acknowledge the urgency and gravity of the situation.
Additionally, we acknowledge fully that we have not always been as proactive as we could have been in addressing issues raised by Lane County. We operate a wholly unique agricultural business that does not fit neatly into any checkbox on bureaucratic forms. Convincing county land use officials that the nature of our farm-based business complies with Exclusive Farm Use codes has been an arduous, sometimes impossible, task. We are fallible human beings trying to keep a small farm alive and operating. When we have made errors we have always worked diligently to correct them. We have never put our employees, our patrons or our neighbors in danger in any way.
All of this being said, the public pressure from our loyal patrons and people who believe in what we are doing has caused action to be taken by the County and the state legislature. We are looking forward to the swift resolution of this issue and getting back to hosting the public at our unique agricultural establishment. Thank you to our supporters and the administration that has shown a renewed commitment to resolving the issues at hand.