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Coral Tree Farm claims ‘partial victory’ following city’s ruling

ENCINITAS — Supporters of a venerable family farm in Encinitas are claiming a “partial victory” after the city said it would allow farming to continue on the property but would add restrictions on other activities and prohibit others.

City staff informed Coral Tree Farm, which grows heirloom vegetables and tropical fruits off of Requeza Avenue, that the family can continue to farm without a permit as long as it doesn’t discontinue it for a period of six months.

The city is requiring the farm to obtain a permit to continue some of its most popular activities, such as community farm visits, educational tours and community gardening.

But the city is requiring Laurel Mehl to cease other activities, such as group cooking classes, Reiki healing, Sunday suppers art classes and yoga, which the city says are not agricultural-related uses and prohibited in the residential area where the farm is located.

“While it’s gratifying that the planning department recognizes that Coral Tree Farm’s land has been in continuous agricultural production for more than half a century, it strikes me as unreasonable that the owner is required to get a minor use permit to do non-intensive activities that any average homeowner could do, like having visits from neighbors and tours of her property,” said Catherine Blakespear, a local attorney who is representing the Mehl family on the issue.

Blakespear, who is also running for city council, pointed out that Coral Tree’s zoning allows for seven homes to be built on the land, adding that she believes the city shouldn’t require a permit for activities that would generate the traffic equal to that generated by seven homes.

“Seven families would have birthday parties and garage sales along with everyday trips to work, the market and school,” she said.

Coral Tree had been locked in a battle with the city after neighbors complained about the traffic and parking problems generated by the farm’s activities. Neighbors contended that Mehl had only recently resumed farming activities on the land year ago.

Mehl said that there had been farming going on continuously on the land since 1958, when the farm opened.

City planners originally required Mehl to produce records that would substantiate her claim of continuous farming. Blakespear wrote a brief to the city that included documentation of water usage rates and her business operations.

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Lynn Marr July 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I agree with Catherine Blakespear; all those uses should be permitted by right and should not be PRELUDED from pre-existing and still existing agricultural uses.

Cooking classes, in particular, are directly related to growing organic food, for example. Small Yoga classes, in an outdoor setting, should be allowed in any zone in Encinitas.

I do not see that parking has been an issue for Coral Tree Farm. There is adequate off street parking. The regulation process for long time agricultural use residents should not be driven by a few anonymous complainants.

I hope that the Planning Commission or Council will make a determination that Laurel Mehl can continue her uses, which are greatly appreciated, as a benefit to our community, as a whole.

Our General Plan encourages preserving agricultural uses. Those uses should not be so marginalized that Planning staff in Encinitas become “micro-managers,” using Minor Use Permits to raise monies, as a kind of hidden tax.

Theron Winsby September 24, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I am ALL FOR AGRICULTURE farming, organic, land!. THE OWNER IS operating a farm, garden, whatever etc. What I got from the City meeting is:
She – the owner made a mistake. She sold out to these people that bought those big houses on the old original avo land. Every neighbor should be a good nieghbor. This includes Coral tree farms.
Grow your food! Do your classes for our kids! but dont bring traffic to my nieghborhood. Dont bring Traffic o my town!.
Get all of your supporters of the farm and purchase a shuttle bus that parks in a designated spot.

Theron Winsby September 24, 2014 at 8:34 pm


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