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Current Council Agenda and Past Meeting Information

CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM NO. 4


Meeting Date: July 22, 2008

Subject/Title: Receive and file a progress report from the ad-hoc and standing Agricultural Enterprise Committees

Prepared by: Linda Maurer, Economic Development Manager

Submitted by: Erick Stonebarger, Councilmember
Bob Brockman, Vice Mayor



RECOMMENDATION
Receive and file a progress report from the ad-hoc and standing Agricultural Enterprise Committees.

PREVIOUS ACTION
None

BACKGROUND
Overview
Under the direction of the City Council, the ad-hoc and standing Agricultural Enterprise Committees and staff have spent a combined two-and-a-half years working on improvements to the City’s agricultural programs. The improvements are in response to Council concerns that the current Program is not effective, either in achieving the results outlined in current ordinance or in the area of agricultural enterprise programs. In tackling these concerns and issues, both the ad-hoc and standing Committees and staff have identified three focus areas for the City’s program, namely:

Standing Agricultural Enterprise Committee
o Current conservation easement program implementation
o Marketing support and outreach

Ad-Hoc Agricultural Enterprise Committee
o Ordinance review and updates

The following provides a summary of the progress made to date in these three focus areas.

Current Conservation Easement Program Implementation – Standing Committee
In the past year-and-a-half, there have been a number of significant changes to the City’s conservation easement program. Most notably is the Council’s decision to discontinue the ongoing administrative funding for the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust in April 2007. In doing so, the Committee took on the additional responsibilities of reviewing potential easement opportunities and needed to develop a framework in which to review and recommend easements to the Council.

In September 2007, the Council adopted a new set of implementation guidelines for the conservation easement program. These guidelines looked at the procedural review, as well as at the payment for services from area land trusts interested in presenting the City with a potential easement opportunity. The Committee and staff have reviewed a few possible transactions under this scenario and will recommend additional amendments and policy changes for the Council’s consideration to increase the effectiveness of the easement program.

Currently, there are four possible easement transactions under consideration with the largest of the four being Frog Hollow Farms, totaling approximately 90 acres of permanently planted crops. This particular easement opportunity has been under consideration for the better part of two years and is still several months away from completion.

Actions to Date
The following is a summary of Council actions related to the implementation of the current conservation easement program:

April 2007 Council discontinues ongoing administrative funding for BALT.

May 2007 Council approves the formation of a standing Agricultural Enterprise Committee to handle issues and discussions pertaining to the implementation of the current ordinance.

September 2007 Council adopted Resolution 2007-213, new conservation easement implementation guidelines for the existing Program.


November 2007 Council approves purchase of conservation easement for Hannah Nicole Vineyards (80 acres)

January 2008 Council approves memorandum of understanding for the Frog Hollow Farms easement transaction (90 acres). Still not closed.



Marketing Outreach and Support – Standing Committee
The Committee and staff have worked on a number of initiatives to help promote agricultural enterprise and have used the limited resources from the City’s Agricultural Administrative Fund 262 to accomplish these goals. Some of the recent programs include:

o Farmers’ Market relocation – Beginning in 2007, the Brentwood Farmers’ Market moved from Thursday afternoon in City Park to Saturday morning on First Street, in the heart of Downtown. This change came as a result of negotiations with Downtown merchants and area farmers and has turned out to be one of the best community events that Brentwood currently offers. The streets in Downtown are filled with hundreds of area residents seeking locally grown products and have provided many area farmers with exposure to their farms and crops.

o Agricultural Grant program – This year, the Committee offered, for the first time, agricultural grants to local farm organizations to help assist in their marketing and outreach efforts. In year one, approximately $30,000 was available to fund activities, such as the production of the 2008 Harvest Time map, the Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign, the launch of a local wine magazine, marketing support of a local wine company, among others.

o “Brentwood Grown” certification program – Staff worked closely with a design and legal team to develop a branding/image for products grown in Brentwood. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office authorized the City of Brentwood to use the certification mark Brentwood Grown this year. A major outreach campaign is underway with 1,300 property owners in the Brentwood Planning Area and the response has been very positive.

o Bay Area Local Food Guide – The City provided a key sponsorship of this year’s Bay Area Local Food Guide, published by the Community Alliance of Family Farmers. This food guide is distributed across the greater Bay Area to consumers eager to buy their food locally. This sponsorship of the guide will likely gain greater exposure to Brentwood-area growers.


Ordinance Review and Updates – Ad-Hoc Committee
The review and update of the City’s ordinance has been a high priority for the ad-hoc Committee. Following provides a summary of the relevant issues being addressed as part of this process.

1. Conservation Easements: The efficacy of a conservation easement-only approach. While there has been an increased interest by property owners in the conservation easement program, there continues to be a limited number of property owners willing to sell conservation easements. During the first seven years of the program, only 133 acres have been conserved. Of that, 30 acres came through the Transferable Agricultural Credit (TAC) program. The most recent transaction was the Cohn easement at 80 acres. Other transactions are under consideration, including the easement for Frog Hollow Farms (90 acres).

EPS, the consultant working on the program’s five-year analysis, suggested that all of the current and future funds collected could preserve no more than seven percent of the Ag Core – a small number given the sheer size of this area.

2. Agricultural Enterprise: Responsiveness to the changing land use and zoning policies in the County’s Ag Core. Over the past three years, the County has made great strides in creating agricultural enterprise opportunity in the Ag Core. Their first action was the zoning allowance for value-added production. This zoning change now allows farmers to produce wine out of grapes, jellies and preserves out of their fruit, on their own land. The County also reset the roadway development impact fees for development of agricultural operations. This change vastly reduced development costs for these potential projects. And, most recently, the County adopted an expanded farm stand ordinance, that enables many local farmers to create farm markets and farm stands with greater flexibility. While zoning and land-use improvements are important, many of the local farmers will require different forms of enterprise assistance to grow and prosper. Since the City is the only jurisdiction with an active and funded agricultural program, it is natural for Brentwood to help serve that role.

The Committee believes that conservation easements are an important tool in preserving productive agricultural lands, but other programs, such as agricultural enterprise are needed to increase the economic vitality of farming. The Committee’s position is consistent with adoption of the Agricultural Enterprise Program Report, the tandem document to the City’s 2001 Agricultural Land Conservation Ordinance, as well as with the Conservation/Open Space Element in the City’s General Plan:

Conservation/Open Space Element:
“Policy 1.1 – Agricultural Preservation: Support preservation of productive agricultural land and provide appropriate programs.
1.1.4 – Secure Agricultural Lands: Establish a Program which secures permanent agriculture on lands designated for agriculture in the City and/or County General Plan. The program should include joint use concepts, land dedication and a transfer for development/in-lieu fee ordinance. The program should also create incentives for continuing agriculture…..”

Actions to Date
Below is a summary of actions and activities relating to the updating the ordinance. The ad-hoc Committee and staff are currently working with LSA Associates, an environmental planning firm, to conduct the Supplemental EIR for the proposed ordinance update:

January 2006 Economic and Planning Systems (EPS) hired to review the City’s program.

January 2007 1. EPS presents five-year review of the program, outlines challenges of program.
2. Council appoints Brockman and Stonebarger to Agricultural Enterprise Committee (ad-hoc) to make recommendations to update the program.

April 2007 Council asks the Committee review the City’s Ag Ordinance.

September 2007 Council adopted Resolution 2007-203 to begin work on an amendment the ordinance and related environmental analysis.

June 2008 Staff hires LSA Associates to conduct Supplement EIR, a requirement to update the ordinance.




Conclusion
Under the guidance of the City Council, the ad-hoc and standing Agricultural Enterprise Committees and staff will continue to improve the City’s program and review all alternatives to create a stronger agricultural community around Brentwood. Agricultural operations are not only just a community benefit, but rather an economic benefit to the City. From tourism to creating and expanding local jobs, Brentwood is uniquely positioned to help create and sustain one of the most viable food regions in all of California. The Committees looks forward to bringing forward future recommendations to strengthen agriculture in the Brentwood region.


FISCAL IMPACT
There is no fiscal impact related to this informational item.


 
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