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No permit, no farm stand
After two and a half years of operation, Jones Family Farms is closing their Lopez Island farm stand, a 200 square-foot building, which sells live shellfish frozen seafood, meat and produce, on Nov. 30.
Nick and Sara Jones, the farm stand owners, contend in a press release written on the morning of Nov. 18 that they are closing because a San Juan County enforcement officer and building official have given notice that the farm stand requires all the commercial building code requirements of a full sized grocery store, restaurant, or any other commercial enterprise and that the Jones’ could face prosecution.
San Juan County says no enforcement action has been filed against Jones Family Farms, according to a press release sent on the afternoon of Nov. 18, and prepared by Stan Matthews, county communications manager.
The county maintains the farm stand does require a permit due to the nature of the structure, the electrical hookup and equipment and the fact that customers transact business inside the building. The Jones’ said code requirements would cost tens of thousands of dollars, and consume vast amounts of time, and that county officials were unwilling to explain what exactly was needed before they submitted a permit and commitment to carrying out all required improvements.
“Our elected officials inform us that they have no capacity to protect us from these officials,” wrote t
he Jones. “We have neither the financial ability nor the desire to write a blank check to conform to pointless standards.” County Building Official, Rene Beliveau, said the permit requirements aren’t onerous.
“In this case, we’d be looking to make sure the electrical connections are safe, the equipment installed properly, that people can get in and out of the building safely and that the structure is sound,” she said.
According to Beliveau, the permitting process should cost between $100 and $150, and will determine what, if any, improvements are needed.
The Jones said that with the shutting down of the farm stand they will lose a significant portion of their business, lose the ability
to serve the community, and local, weekender and visitor customers will lose access to these products.
In their press release, the Jones express their general frustration with the county for claiming to be committed to small business, local agriculture and entrepreneurship.
“Our experiences in owning, operating and building our business over the past ten years finds these statements to be at best delusional and at worse a cynical lie,” wrote the Jones. “County officials seem to view small business; particularly resource based small business, as an annoyance, an enemy, and an endless cash cow.”
The Jones are known on Lopez for their farming of shellfish and raising of grass-fed beef, goat, poultry and award-winning Heritage Hogs.
Chef John Sundstrom won the 2011 Seattle Cochon 555 — a national culinary competition and tasting event — with his preparation of a Jones Family Farm hog.
“Mr. Jones’s announcement that he will close his farm store at the end of the month is his own decision,” said San Juan County Administrator Pete Rose. “As members of this community, as well as agents for common interests of the people of San Juan County, the county’s employees know that the loss of a business is a loss for our community. We are sorry that Mr. Jones feels it advisable to close his business.”