ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Planning Commission will resume deliberations on the city’s proposed agricultural ordinance nearly three months after it pushed pause on the discussions.
A planning commission study session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 19 on the ordinance, which has divided agricultural enthusiasts and environmentalists, who see the proposal as a progressive balance between the city’s suburban setting and agricultural heritage, and some homeowners, who believe the ordinance goes too far and would negatively impact property values and the residential communities in the city.
The planning commission was set to make a recommendation to the council in late August when they voted to abruptly table discussions. The commissioners said while they agreed with the overarching goal and need for such an ordinance, they had some concerns with the current iteration, including the potential encroachment of businesses in the form of large produce stands in residential neighborhoods, the public safety concerns about the proximity of bees to residents and the potential unintended backlash the proposed rules could have on existing agricultural and rural areas.
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.
The commission won’t be taking action at the Nov. 19 session, but will make a recommendation to the council at a future meeting.
Meanwhile, opponents have begun waging a campaign against the ordinance, issuing anonymous robocalls to residents against the plan, and setting up Facebook pages denouncing the plan and the consequences opponents say it will have on residential communities.