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Agricultural Advisory Committee Final Report

City Administration
Meeting Minutes
Brentwood Agricultural Advisory Committee
Meeting #6

April 27, 2000
6:30 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.
Delta Community Center

Mayor Kidd, Councilman McPoland, Nancy Holloman, Edward Meyer, Mark Dwelley, Ron Nunn, Evelyn Stivers, John Chapman, Jack Adams, Glenn Stonebarger, 
John Johnson, Marty Maggiore, Laine Lawrence, Richard Vrmeer and Peter Wolfe. 

Community Development Director Oshinsky introduced Jonathan London, a consultant with MIG, who would be substituting for Jeff Loux, of MIG, who was unable to attend the meeting.

The Committee approved the Action Minutes from February 17, 2000.

Mayor Kidd reviewed the items on the agenda. He informed the group that the Agricultural Enterprise Program was a priority item on the agenda and reminded everyone that this document is only a “draft” report, and that the Committee has not adopted it.

Community Development Director Oshinsky gave an overview of why the Agricultural Enterprise Program was initiated. 

Members of the public stated the following comments and concerns to the Committee:
· Dwight Meadows, farmer, indicated that the Ag Commissioner regulates the size of required spray buffers between agricultural land and urban uses based on the type of chemical being used and the types of urban use. He felt that the target area for the Agricultural Enterprise Program should be within the City’s Sphere of Influence and the City’s Planning Area. He stated that the program should be flexible and allow developers to mitigate the loss of agricultural land through land dedication as well as through payment of mitigation fees. He also wanted term easements to be considered as well as permanent easements.
· Jerry Tennant, farmer, indicated farming is affected by influences beyond the control of local government (e.g. farm worker availability and foreign trade issues). He mentioned considering soil quality and the need to find willing sellers and meet their asking price. He expressed some skeptism about the viability of Ag tourism and improving traffic. He thought the City water meter surcharge was a good idea and it could provide additional program revenue and it should be considered.
· Elgin Martin, Countryside Court, felt that the program creates another layer of bureaucracy.
· Tom Bloomfield questioned inclusion of County Ag Core in Agricultural Enterprise Program. He mentioned that everyone should read the “charge of committee, ” and that emphasis should be placed on protecting land in Brentwood. He expressed concern that the draft Committee report included recommendations that were not previously discussed by the Agricultural Advisory Committee.

· Document committee votes in body of document when there is no consensus
· Focus on far-east Contra Costa County 
· Protect view corridors
· Focus on City’s Planning Area
· Include areas outside City limits/planning areas
· Are mitigation fees high enough to purchase conservation easements?
· Criteria/parcel size
· Allocation of city raised funds in the City of Brentwood
· The smaller the program target area, the more expensive the easements will be to purchase
· Need to leverage money from outside sources
· Are we preserving Ag land or open space?
· Increased traffic is a hazard to the farmers
· All community residents should fund the program 

The Committee discussed the following item numbers and came up with the following recommendations:
This summary item was tabled for consideration at the next meeting.
Rephrase to read, “the program should work cooperatively with the County and County agricultural land preservation activities.”  The Committee also discussed adding a sentence that says, “The Committee also recommends that the City actively pursues or encourages County participation in agricultural land preservation activities.”  The Committee also decided to delete the wording, “once the City program is in place.”
The Committee agreed that this item was acceptable. 
The majority of the Committee voted to include 1.4 as is, although there was some concern by some members.

Glenn Stonebarger read a recommendation that was composed by a few farmers, including Committee members, into the record. 
“The mitigation fee is aimed at the developer whether it be residential or commercial, but benefit derived from that program is for the residents. Consideration should be given to include 50% of the mitigation fee to the developer, and the balance should be collected from the residents through a bond or assessment.” 

A discussion ensued regarding ratios and fees. The Committee discussed putting a bond measure on the ballot. There were discussions regarding including existing homeowners in the ultimate program funding strategy, not just new homebuyers. 
The Committee rephrased the recommendation to read, “The Committee recommends that all developments, regardless of soil type and quality, affected should be required to mitigate at the same level.”
The Committee discussed the need to ensure program revenue raised within the City be spent on land within the City. There was discussion regarding setting a minimum land acreage limit for program participation and how much land is needed for viable agricultural operations. 

Two approaches were discussed regarding how to select agricultural lands for protection. One approach was that land must be located within the City’s Planning Area. The second approach was to give priority to the City Agricultural Conservation area, but include strategic parcels in the County Agricultural Core and within the City limits.

Another idea discussed was to phase the approaches; Phase 1, City Planning Area, Phase 2, City Planning plus County Agricultural Core. It was suggested not to pursue lands outside the Planning Area unless there were no transaction opportunities within the Planning Area.

A proposal was made that says funds that are raised from mitigation fees within the City will be used within the City Planning Area. Funds that are raised from other sources, whether it be County, from private foundations, state or federal grants, can be used in both the City’s Planning Area and the County Ag Core as well. A suggested modification was that no money could be spent outside the Planning Area raised in the Planning Area unless matched from the outside.

There was a suggestion to allow the farmers comment on this item. The Committee decided to move on and decide on this item at the next meeting. 
The Committee discussed the 1:1 ratio, for land conversion to land protection, and decided this ratio was okay. There were discussions regarding creating a mechanism to have the current residents pay, not just the new homebuyers, to help with the cost of retaining Ag land. Suggestions were made to possibly have a bond measure put on the ballot or possibly a water rate surcharge.  A vote was taken and eight committee members were comfortable with this item as is and five members were not.
The Committee was satisfied with this item as written.
This item was discussed and was continued for further information regarding various easements, financing, low interest loans and additional information from MIG. 

The remaining issues were tabled until the next session.

(Committee session was closed.)

Discussion ensued with the County Community Development Staff regarding the County’s commitment to the City’s agricultural protection programs. The County representative, Patrick Roche, responded that the Board of Supervisors has formed an agricultural task force and has begun study of changes to current zoning. He also mentioned that the County has been studying the potential for a Security Farming Zone & an improved Williamson Act Program to help protect agricultural viability in the County.

The next meeting date was scheduled for Monday, May 15th at 6:30 PM. 

Seven Speakers provided the following comments:
· Speaker 1 requested that Staff and the Consultants check with lenders to determine if a farmer has a mortgage, can they sell a conservation easement?
· Speaker 2 asked about what would happen to the mitigation money if there were no sellers of conservation easements available?
· A discussion ensued regarding this point. It was indicated that there would have to be a clear connection between the use of the funds and the mitigation of agricultural conversion. Also, a decision made about the money would need to be consistent with AB1600 requirements. 
· Speaker 3 was concerned about the potential costs to implement the draft recommendations. He also stated that he thought all new development, which converts agricultural land, should pay mitigation fees into the program to support agriculture, regardless of soil quality. He also questioned the adequacy of the mitigation fee given likely easement costs. 

A comment was made from the group that the definition of Agricultural Land under State Law includes grazing land and prime Agricultural Lane.

· Speaker 4 indicated that it’s very difficult to turn a profit farming and farmers need profitability to keep farming. He felt $5,000 per acre for potential development rights would limit a farmer’s ability to borrow money to run operations because the adjusted land value will not be enough to secure a loan. He would like the market forces to dictate the price paid for development rights. He indicated that if Brentwood were such prime farmland, none of the farmers in the area would sell their land to developers; they’d pass it on to the next generation. He stated he’s finding it difficult to make ends meet. He reiterated that $5,000 was not enough money and agriculture won’t last long. He indicated that the City is encroaching in on farmland. He indicated that even trying to spray his land has become difficult because there are people close to his land now.

A comment was made from a committee member that the $5,000 per acre was not the amount that the City or a land trust will pay. The price that a farmer would be paid is negotiable and based on what the willing seller is willing to accept.

· Speaker 5 wanted to maintain farmland and a small town feel. He was also concerned about the population size of the City.
· Speaker 6, expressed concern that City generated funds would not be sufficient to fund an effective mitigation program given prevailing land values.
· Speaker 7 indicated that the farming irrigation system is not adequate. The islands that are being created will not have irrigation water. There is zero water underground. The water won’t be able to be moved at a reasonable rate.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:50 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, 
Theresa M. Gubera

City of Brentwood Agricultural Advisory
730 Third Street
Brentwood, CA 94513
(925) 516-5444
Fax (925)516-5445