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File #: 18-1425    Version: 1
Type: Agenda Item Status: Approved
File created: 9/10/2018 In control: Board of Supervisors
On agenda: 11/20/2018 Final action: 11/20/2018
Title: Agriculture Department recommending the Board consider providing direction to staff, pursuant to Board Policy A-3, to proceed with establishing an ordinance that supports an Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. (Est. Time: 15 Min.) Continued from 12/12/18 FUNDING: Voluntary easement donations by property owners requesting General Plan amendments or rezones from agricultural to non-agricultural zones, voluntary donations, grants.
Attachments: 1. A - 18-1425 A GENERAL PLAN, 2. B - 18-1425 B Power Point
Related files: 21-1514

Title

Agriculture Department recommending the Board consider providing direction to staff, pursuant to Board Policy A-3, to proceed with establishing an ordinance that supports an Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. (Est. Time: 15 Min.) Continued from 12/12/18

 

FUNDING:  Voluntary easement donations by property owners requesting General Plan amendments or rezones from agricultural to non-agricultural zones, voluntary donations, grants.

Body

DISCUSSION / BACKGROUND

The General Plan lists multiple objectives for the conservation and protection of grazing lands and other agricultural lands.  Policy 8.2.4.1 states  “Programs shall be developed that provide tax benefits and enhance competitive capabilities of farms and ranches thereby ensuring long-term conservation, enhancement, and expansion of viable agricultural lands.  Examples of programs include but are not limited to, the following”:

A.                     Support and allow private organizations to utilize conservation easements or other appropriate techniques to voluntarily restrict land to agricultural uses only.

B.                     Continued use of Williamson Act Contracts (agricultural preserves).

C.                     Formation of land trusts to preserve agricultural lands.

D.                     Make available voluntary purchase or transfer of development rights from agricultural areas to appropriate non-agricultural areas.

El Dorado County has established various protections for agricultural lands such as; the General Plan Agricultural District overlay with minimum parcel sizes, the Agricultural Zones, Right to Farm, Ranch Marketing, Wineries, and Agricultural Preserves (Williamson Act) sections of the Zoning Ordinance.  Even with these protections the California Department of Conservation’s Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program continues to show conversions of farm and grazing lands to urban uses in the county.

Urban development next to agricultural lands indirectly reduces the agricultural potential of remaining farms by increasing the potential for urban and agricultural conflicts.  These conflicts can also reduce the current and future uses of the surrounding land for agricultural purposes.

The County’s agricultural lands are currently facing two key development pressures.  One is the pending retirements of many of the existing farmers and how the farm land will be handed down to family members and secondly, the subdivision of former grazing lands next to existing ranches.

Agricultural Conservation Easements

An Agricultural Conservation Easement program is another tool that can protect farm and grazing lands.  The program involves the voluntary purchase or donation of development rights from willing landowners to public agencies or nonprofit organizations such as a land trust.  The easement can be tailored to meet conservation objectives and allows farming/ranching to continue.  It is a deed restriction that runs with the land in perpetuity.  Easement prices are established by an appraiser with the expertise to segregate the value of the development rights.  Voluntary funds collected from property owners or developers requesting General Plan Amendments can be held in a trust by the public agency or transferred to a nonprofit like the Community Foundation.  The funds would be held until a willing seller with property that meets the County’s conservation objectives (number of acres, adequate water supply, soils, etc.) is available.  The public agency or land trust would monitor and enforce the restrictions set forth in the easement agreement.

Agricultural Conservation Easement benefits include:

                     Keeping families on their farms by easing the intergenerational transfer of property,

                     Keeping land in farming or ranching uses

                     Increased access to capital for agricultural uses by property owners

                     Undeveloped grazing lands cost less in public services

                     Can contribute to watershed or oak woodland protections

 

ALTERNATIVES

1)  A stronger mitigation program could be enacted following General Plan Policy 8.1.3.4 where projects found to have a significant impact on agricultural lands have a mitigation of 1:1 replacement or conservation for loss of land in agricultural production or suitable for agricultural production.

2)  The Board could choose to not take any action at this time.

 

OTHER DEPARTMENT / AGENCY INVOLVEMENT

County Counsel, Planning Services

 

CAO RECOMMENDATION / COMMENTS

It is recommended that the Board consider this item and provide direction as recommended.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

Staff time to outline elements of the program administration, determine the program goals, priorities and criteria. Bring the program/resolution back to the Board of Supervisors.  Outreach to organizations, and landowners

 

CLERK OF THE BOARD FOLLOW UP ACTIONS

NA

 

STRATEGIC PLAN COMPONENT

This recommendation is in alignment with the County’ Strategic Plan, the Economic Development Component to enable a prosperous and vibrant economy - Objective 1; Attract, develop and retain businesses that provide economic sustainability and quality job creation.

 

PRIOR BOARD ACTION Resolution No. 245-99 and 188-2002 which established agricultural preserve (Williamson Act) criteria.

 

CONTACT

Charlene Carveth (530) 621-5522

Agricultural Commissioner Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures