Agriculture ordinance up for planning commission OK

Agriculture ordinance up for planning commission OK
Planning Commissioners postpone any ruling on an agricultural ordinance, which would include limiting the number of animals, as chickens and goats, allowed in a residential area. Photo courtesy Wikimedia

ENCINITAS — After months of debate and fine tuning, a proposed ordinance that would allow homeowners to engage in some agricultural activities by right for the first time in Encinitas is headed to the Planning Commission.

But a local pro-business group is already panning the rules as an unwanted intrusion on the city’s residential neighborhoods, potentially devaluing them in the process.

The ordinance spells out a number of farming activities that property owners would be able to do by right, including:

• Have farms smaller than an acre

• Host farmers markets with 15 or fewer vendors at churches, schools and community centers,

• Set up fruit stands of 120 square feet or smaller and operate them 12 hours a week

• Host up to six “agriconnection” events a year, including farm-to-table events, farming tours and the like. Events that are not directly tied to agriculture, such as yoga and art events, would not be allowed by right.

• Own 25 chickens as long as the coop was 50 feet away from nearby homes

• Own two goats

• Own two beehives

The ordinance would also create a streamlined permitting process for people who wanted to do more and larger farming activities than are guaranteed by right. The proposal calls for the so-called “agricultural permit” to cost $250, significantly less than the $1,600 it costs for a minor use permit to conduct these activities.

Proponents have argued that the proposed rules strike a balance between encouraging agriculture while protecting the suburban values of neighbors.

At least one local organization, however, argues that the rules do the opposite.

In an email blast to subscribers, the New Encinitas Network, which represents a number of businesses and property owners in the city’s largest community, urged members to attend the planning commission meeting to protest the proposal.

“The new ‘Bees, Goats and Chickens’ Ordinances that are getting a ‘first look’ by the Encinitas Planning Commission this Thursday evening at City Hall should disturb the vast majority of residents through all 5 communities that comprise Encinitas,” the email states. “In a nutshell, the Planning Commissioners (Coaster appointees) are being asked to approve some utterly fantastic changes to the City of Encinitas as we currently know it. Fantastic, not in a good way.”

The Network email goes on to outline its argument that the rules would transform Encinitas’ residential communities into agrarian and commercial zones by promoting  “dangerous, filthy and intrusive ‘Urban Farming’ in the currently very quiet, safe and clean neighborhoods that comprise all 5 of the communities that make Encinitas in total.”

The Network, whose executive director is Michael Andreen, argues that the proposal would only benefit a handful of farmers and agricultural proponents at the expense of the community at large.

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