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Complaint filed against farm

Code violation being checked out; operation is in city limits

Akha Farm co-owner Matthew McDaniel is shown here working at the farm in August. Located in a Falls City residential zone, the farm is the subject of a code investigation.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Akha Farm co-owner Matthew McDaniel is shown here working at the farm in August. Located in a Falls City residential zone, the farm is the subject of a code investigation.

January 14, 2014

FALLS CITY — Activity at a Falls City farm located in a residential neighborhood has come under scrutiny as complaints of alleged code violations have been made to the city.

Akha Farm, 137 Sheldon Ave., which sells produce at local farmers markets, was the subject of a complaint read at Thursday's Falls City City Council meeting, alleging that the farm is a commercial business operating in a residential zone, a code violation.

The complaint lists other potential violations, including unusual water demands, keeping pigs and roosters within city limits, and running an unlicensed outdoor business.

"My neighborhood is changing drastically and this is not supposed to happen," wrote Gary Barnett, an Akha Farm neighbor who filed the six-page complaint with the city Thursday. "My position is that my wife and I have invested our life's work in this home in a residential neighborhood so we would be protected from exactly what is happening now."

City Administrator Amber Mathiesen said Barnett's complaints are not the first, and the city has an open code violation investigation in progress. Mathiesen said code violation investigations are kept confidential until they reach court, and a court date in this case will be scheduled soon.

"(Akha Farm) is in a residential zone," Mathiesen said. "The activity taking place on the property would best be described as a commercial farm."

Akha Farm is owned by Matthew McDaniel and his wife, Michu Uaiyue, and they began growing in 2012. That year, the farm applied for a license to open a farm stand on the site. That application was denied in July of that year, as the city's code prohibits commercial businesses in residential neighborhoods.

However, the farm was allowed to continue to grow produce and take it to farmers markets to sell. Mathiesen — who didn't work for the city at the time — said the city was willing to accommodate the operation, even though farming in a residential zone is a code violation — as long as there were no complaints.

Since that time, the farm has expanded to 12 acres, activity has increased, and so have the complaints, Mathiesen said.

McDaniel said he was unaware of the complaint. He said he was in the process of removing a large amount of discarded tires on the property, also a code violation, but believed that was all the farm needed to do to be in compliance.

McDaniel said he sees a number of code violations on other properties in town — though he admits a new enforcement officer is making progress — and feels singled out.

"We are sort of fatigued of the whole thing," he said Monday. "There's no huge amount of complaints against anyone else, but there are against us."

Furthermore, he states that the farm has been operating within the city's July 2012 decision.

"They said, 'You can grow vegetables there, take them to farmers markets, you just can't have a farm stand.' That's what we were told," he said.

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