Chamber of Commerce against SOAR initiative

OCEANSIDE — The Chamber of Commerce has added its voice to opposition of the proposed SOAR initiative, which asks that zoning changes of parks, open space and farmland go to a citizen’s vote.

The chamber board of directors voted unanimously to oppose the initiative Feb. 20.

The main reason the chamber stands against SOAR is that it is bad for commercial farmers. The chamber believes its rules would create roadblocks for farmers to finance property improvements and remain viable.

Scott Ashton, chamber chief executive officer, said there are already enough checks and balances in place for zoning changes, which go through city staff, Planning Commission and City Council approval. He added the initiative would require costly citywide elections for even minor property changes.

Ashton said decisions about private farmland should not be grouped with public open space, or put in the hands of residents who may not be familiar with the agriculture area.

“It’s people’s livelihood, not open space like a park, it’s a property rights issue,” Ashton said. “They’re ignoring the needs of farmers who are not just farming as a hobby, but have multi-generational family farms.”

The proposed initiative would also put a moratorium on existing general plan and zoning designations until 2038.

Dennis Martinek, a small farmer and planning commissioner who is leading the initiative drive, said SOAR does not affect the business of farming. He said all city rules will still apply to adding property improvements as long as they comply with current zoning.

He added the initiative focuses on major land use changes, such as the allowance of large scale developments.

Martinek said zoned farmland is a valuable community resource, which he does not entrust City Council to preserve. He said the decision to change farmland zoning should be left up to the common sense of residents.

“We have so little of it left, the city should just not squander it along with parkland and open space,” Martinek said.

Both supporters and those in opposition of SOAR look at the effects a similar initiative has had in Ventura County. Both sides are dug in that results there prove their point.

Ashton said the initiative has had negative economic impacts in Ventura County.

He said Matthew Fienup, California Lutheran University executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, met with the chamber and city officials and said the initiative has been disastrous for the county’s economy and frozen development and business expansion.

Ventura County’s economy has shrunk, and it is seeing the slowest recovery from the recession in the state. The economic downturn is prompting major biotechnology companies to consider leaving the area.

“It’s not correct to say it’s beneficial,” Ashton said. “I don’t think this is the solution, to put zoning for privately owned businesses on the ballot.”

Fienup agrees and said there are more effective alternatives to preserve parks and public open space.

“It’s the most crude policy, and it’s not clear to me at all that it achieves its most basic goals,” Fienup said.

Martinek said according to a Ventura County supervisor the initiative is producing positive slow growth and development along transportation corridors.

Martinek said he wants the same results for Oceanside.

About 10,000 signatures have been collected to put the initiative on Oceanside’s November ballot. Proponents of the initiative will continue to collect signatures up until the March 11 submission deadline.

  1. Nadine Scott 2 weeks ago

    The chamber’s assumptions are incorrect! Oceanside has very liberal agricultural zoning regulations. A farmer can do anything relative to his/her agricultural operation so long as it’s over 500 feet from their property line. An over the counter application is all that is required for most projects and does not require notice. Some other ag uses that may have a high impact require giving notice within 500 feet.
    I dislike when the Chamber makes untrue statements. Just correcting the record.
    What does trigger a vote is if the farmer wants to deviate from the agricultural zoning into high density projects or industrial. Just as we bought our homes in a residential zoned area, they bought land in an agriculturally zoned area. Once they try to outside the General Plan, a vote would be triggered.

  2. Oceansidevotes 2 weeks ago

    Not only are the Chambers wrong, but they never met with any SOAR supporters or “allowed” the Board to allow for any presentation from SOAR supporters! The Oceanside’s Chamber Board based their decision on a “one-sided” vote! Attempts were made and SOAR was denied even 20 minutes of ” The Boards” time! Who is on this Board? After seeing the appointment of our long- time City employee, Peter Weiss..first he was the engineer, then City Manager, then Paid City Consultant….as a development consultant! He has been working with all of the developers and now he can vote on his projects! Just as this same Council majority, Kern, Feller and Lowery appointed a city employee not an elected official, like Zack Beck, whom Mayor Wood really endorsed. Just as Kern, Feller and Lowery endorsed our Past Treasurer, after he had passed away! Why, because they don’t want an outsider to see what they’re really doing! Instead they appoint one of their long time City employee’s husband as our CityTreasurer! Wow, and if this isn’t the good-ole boy…nepotism..I don’t know what is!

    SOAR is great for Oceanside! Thank God for SOAR, Oceanside voters need to wake up and change this Council, before they sell us all out! There are only a handful of commercial farmers who oppose SOAR and that’s because they want to change the zoning to high density and make billions! Meanwhile, we will be stuck with the increased water bills, even more traffic congestion, and have to foot the bill for safety impacts, infrasturcture…. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us single family homeowners could change our zoning to commercial and build an apartment building on our lots! Sure.

    We need a vision plan and South Morro Hills was working on that, instead this council majority is pandering to an out-of- town developer and causing problems for our neighborhoods! North River Farms is the same Developer as the Villa Storia project, that is now costing the City 1.2 million dollars a year in subsidies! Really, what are we doing? How does that benefit Oceanside?This Council majority is undermining the community, the City staff, the Planning commission and obviously has BIG ties to the Chambers of Commerce. How sad our City Chambers is bought and paid for by our City Council and Developers. Scott Ashton, forgot to mention in his quote that the California Lutheran Director also said the SOAR INITIAVE in Ventura and Napa counties was passed again and renewed by the voters with wider spans! I’m sure the Council is planning to appoint Scott Ashton to something too!

    The good news is we can get rid of Kern and Lowery in November! They are obviously only looking at the $$$$$$. Lowery said it himself at the Economic Development meeting and one of the commissioners called him out on it!
    DO NOT VOTE FOR KERN OR LOWERY – Oceanside deserves much better then these CORRUPT COUNCILMEN!

  3. Oceansidevotes 1 week ago

    Not only are the Chambers assumptions incorrect, they based their decision on a “one sided” view!
    The Board NEVER gave SOAR supporters 5 minutes of their time for a presentation among the Chambers members or the BOARD! Who makes up this Board and who appointed them? I would love to know if anyone can find out who makes up the Emerging Issues Committee for the Chambers, who unanimously voted against SOAR but never heard from any SOAR supporters. This is where your dues to the Oceanside Chambers are going…definitely not a fair and balanced decision based on an inform decision! Scott Ashton failed to mention that the voters in Napa and Ventura renewed SOAR in there areas with wider spans! Why, because it works. SOAR supporters turned in over 15k signatures
    from voters in Oceanside that care about our farming and open space. Don’t be fooled by the oppositions propaganda, they are definitely spinning the facts to suit their needs.

    Thank GOD for SOAR- Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources! We need farmland folks, we need responsible development, we need development where there is infrastructure updated to sustain the areas, we need a vision plan for Oceanside and South Morro Hills..our farmers were working together to put that in place but our 3 corrupt councilmen Kern, Lowery and Feller put out of town developers first AND are trying to change the land use and zoning! They are trying to change the land from agricultural to high density housing and expect the citizens to foot the bill on all of the subsidies. North River Farms is the same developer as Villa Storia. Villa Storia costs the City 1.2 million dollars a year!!!! How does that help the City and it’s citizens? Certainly the Chambers can look up that information. The jobs to housing ration is at a negative. I thought the Chambers took a position a couple of years ago not to support zoning changes that will negatively impact areas that could be potentially created for jobs. It’s very disheartening to know that the Chambers are just as corrupt as our 3 Council members. I’m sure the Council is planning to appoint Scott Ashton to something. Just as lowery, kern and feller appointed Weiss to Mayor. lowery, kern and feller appointed our Treasurer Tricky. Our City Manager was appointed by the Council. Why do we even have elections? Why do we even have democracy/ There is no democracy in Oceanside only control and corruption! Kern and Lowery need to go back to teaching and baking. Perhaps, Kern can teach Lowery how to bake marijuana brownies and Feller can deliver them in his donated Weseloh car! God help us – vote these thugs out of office – Oceanside deserves much better!

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