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A special meeting of the Brentwood City Council was called to order at the hour of 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 734 Third Street, Brentwood, with Vice-Mayor Petrovich presiding.
Beckstrand, Gomes, Hill, Vice-Mayor Petrovich
PUBLIC COMMENT None
Consideration of an Ordinance adopting an Agricultural Enterprise Program. (Continued from 8/14/01)
Mitch Oshinsky, Community Development Director, gave an overview of the Agricultural Enterprise program and stated that it was the result of a multi-year collaboration between local farmers and the City. It is a voluntary program that would give the farmers funding opportunities they currently dont have. Brentwood agriculture generates between two and three hundred million dollars annually. This program can provide growth management, open space green belt, tourism, and jobs. It would gain local versus county control over the future of the Ag. Core. He felt the pros of the program were that it would provide interested farmers with a new revenue source, it helps protect farms and open space, it helps the economy and jobs, provides a green belt, and it is good for the near by property values. He felt there were no identifiable cons to the program. The mitigation fee and transferable agricultural credits are the two major parts of the program. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) require that cities mitigate for the loss of prime Ag. land. Currently there is a thousand dollar per acre fee that developers pay when they develop on prime Ag. lands. That fee is not adequate to mitigate or offset the loss of the land. The five thousand dollar fee proposed in the program is adequate to cover the loss the Ag. land pursuant to the AB1600. City fees that are collected from developers will be combined with state, federal, and private funds, which will be pooled to purchase easements from participating farmers to protect farms. The farmers participating in the Transferable Ag. Credits (TAC) program can receive two TAC units per acre that can be transferred into Brentwood as a two acre per density bonus. Developers have stated that would be willing to pay between fifteen and thirty thousand dollars per TAC unit. The City would control whether or not to grant density bonuses, and TAC helps protect agricultural open space, curb sprawl and encourages smart growth in the urbanized areas by leading to density bonuses.
Winston Rhodes, Associate Planner, stated there were some changes to the Ordinance. The first line of page five, should read Conservation easements should be permanent. The last line of the second paragraph on page five should read, specified as a term easement as mentioned in this section. Lines three and four of the second paragraph; line three Transferable Ag. Credits are eligible to be allocated to the property owners of record of agricultural land within the approximately 2160-acre portion of the established Contra Costa County Agricultural Core Area that is bounded by. He gave a brief overview of the program and stated the some changes recommended by the farmers who attended the meetings have been incorporated into the program. The three major components of the programs are agricultural land mitigation, transferable Ag. credits, and Ag. enterprise support. For agricultural land mitigation the city is required by state law to face the significant environmental impacts and act responsibly to lessen their severity; conversion of high quality Ag. land is considered a significant environmental impact this component sets a standard of striving to protect one-acre of productive Ag. land near Brentwood for each acre which is converted due to new development. Based on a required study of land values this component establishes a five thousand dollar per acre mitigation fee to be used to purchase conservation easements to offset the loss of productive agricultural land due to urbanization. The mitigation fee along with state, federal, and private foundation funds will be used in the future to arrive at negotiated purchase prices for conservation easements when voluntarily initiated by Ag. land owners within the Brentwood planning Area. The Transferable Ag. Credits (TAC) program is way to enable property owners in the County Ag. core area to share in the housing development activity within the city. Each property owner in the TAC area would receive two Ag. Credits, which could be sold to residential developers of land inside the City for a dwelling unit density bonus subject to City approval including the recently adopted Growth Management Program. Developers would negotiate a price with willing target area property owners for all or a portion of their credits, in exchange the property owners would agree to the placement of a permanent conservation easement on their property and also retain ownership. The agricultural enterprise support is the most flexible program component that allows the City to work with the Ag. community to creatively address existing challenges and specific farmer issues of concern.
Councilmember Hill asked what the status was of the Countys reception of the program and what the interest level was on other communities participating. Mr. Oshinsky stated the responses that have been received from the County is they are supportive of the program and they have a subcommittee they have looking into this. Councilmember Hill asked if it had been adopted formerly. Mr. Oshinksy stated that they have supported in writing, but the committee has not acted on it yet.
Councilmember Beckstrand stated comments and feedback had been received from the County that state they are in favor of the efforts that the City is going to. She said State funding is not available for anything under a forty acre parcel, but there is if there are two or more contiguous properties totaling up to forty acres. She stated they had wanted to provide something for parcels of smaller acreage and that would be where the term easements and temporary easements would come in.
Councilmember Hill asked if there had been anyone else that would take the density that would come in form of the TAC credits. Mr. Oshinsky stated that other cities have been very receptive toward this.
Evelyn Stivers, East Bay Field Representative, Greenbelt Alliance, felt that it was good that the City was looking at a program to protect Ag. lands, but that programs like this cannot replace good urban planning and land use decisions. They are generally in support of programs like this but felt there are barriers that can keep this program from being effective such as; term easements, no federal tax incentives for land owners, the department of conservation requires that easements be perpetual in order to receive funding. She felt that the investment of money and time are the same for term easements and permanent easements; so a large amount of money shouldnt be put into a program that does not offer permanent protection. She also felt the minimum parcel size could be a problem, preventing people from participating.
Al Courchesne, Frog Hollow Farm, felt the program was a step in the right direction, but that the forty-acre minimum would make the program meaningless because it is excludes approximately ninety-percent of the land. He felt the program needs to be broad based and inclusionary. He stated the size of the board needed to be increased so that everyone was represented.
Councilmember Beckstrand stated this program does not rule out smaller parcel sizes; that there were state funds available for various combinations of properties or single properties. The most readily available funding is from the state for permanent easements do require the forty-acres or contiguous parcels.
Mr. Oshinsky stated the program allows parcels to be put together to meet the forty-acre minimum.
Mr. Rhodes said the State Department of Conservation does not have a specific requirement on size that they look at transactions one at a time and make a determination about any special conditions, such as how strategic the location is.
There was discussion regarding the forty-acre size and the funding available for parcels that are smaller than forty-acres.
Mike Donnelly, Harris Apple Ranch, asked if there had to be one owner on the contiguous lands or if it could be a conglomerate.
Councilmember Petrovich stated there does not have to be a single owner it can be many.
Richard Vrmeer, 510 Hoffman Lane, felt there were many things to compliment the city on regarding the program. He felt there are critical elements that weaken the program that are unnecessary such as the minimum parcel size and the board should be broadened. He also felt that paying someone not to develop land that they cant develop anyway, because it is in the Ag. core. is something that should not be done.
Len DelChiaro, Farmer, felt this program would protect open space not help save Ag. lands.
Lawrence Hillburn, 280 Eureka, asked what the definition of contiguous is and if there could be a street between the properties.
Mr. Oshinsky stated the interpretation of that would be up to the land trust when they review individual applications to enter into the conservation easements.
Councilmember Beckstrand asked if land trust were to put this together but if this parcel is applying for state funding then that determination would actually lie with the state.
Mr. Oshinsky stated the property owner would not be applying to the state; it would be the land trust that applies to the state. When the applicants are reviewed, they then rate them and rank them.
Tom Bloomfleild stated that eighty percent of landowners are opposed to this.
Councilmember Gomes asked why he felt eighty-percent of landowners were opposed to this.
Mr. Bloomfield stated it could negatively affect property values, and that it is not going to enhance Ag. lands.
Councilmember Hill asked if there were two similar parcels and one participates and one did not, would there be a differential between the property values.
Mr. Bloomfield felt that if other parcels boxed off one parcel it could affect the ability of a developer or anyone coming into that property to receive water, sewer, and power. He felt the limit of forty-acre parcel size should remain in the program.
Laine Lawrence stated she was concerned with term easements and the forty-acre parcel requirement. If the program is to preserve Ag. lands, that buying term easements would be the best resource.
Councilmember Beckstrand commented on the concerns regarding term easements. It was done because county boards change with elections and it is the Citys interest to preserve the Ag. areas as long as possible.
Councilmember Hill asked that staff bring back an analysis of comparisons of cities or counties that have adopted similar ordinances where they have allowed certain properties to go into permanent easements versus properties that have stayed out, and what that would do to property values and if there had been litigation. He would also like to see what the Countys stand is on this issue.
Frank Souza felt there are many properties that are not being farmed that are contiguous, that would qualify for the program. He felt that most farmers are against the program.
It was moved/seconded by Beckstrand/Gomes to leave the Public Hearing for Item No. 4 open and continue to item to the meeting of August 28, 2001. Motion carried with Mayor McPoland being absent.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Margaret Wimberly, Administrative Assistant II
City of Brentwood City Council
150 City Park Way
Brentwood, CA 94513
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