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Encinitas commission ‘struggling’ with agriculture ordinance

The Encinitas Planning Commission is interested in speeding up deliberation on an urban agriculture ordinance, since the commission is less than a third of the way through reviewing the ordinance after more than five months.

Chair Glenn O’Grady initiated an agenda item on Feb. 4 to get commission consensus on how far along the commission is with the ordinance, which proposes to relax the permitting process for upstart farms. His request came about because he was due to meet with the urban agriculture subcommittee and give an update.

“I would just say we’re struggling with it,” said O’Grady, summarizing commission discussion on the matter.

Meanwhile, four of the five commissioners during the Feb. 4 meeting said they’d like to expedite the hearing process and look at the ordinance in its entirety, rather than the current process of going through each individual part of the ordinance. The commission at a future meeting will decide whether to accelerate consideration of the ordinance.

“It’s taxing and exhausting the way we’re doing it,” Commissioner Ruben Flores said. “It may be better to tackle it all at once.”

Commissioner Greg Dracos agreed, saying the commission’s approach toward the ordinance is becoming “burdensome.”

But Commissioner Anthony Brandenburg said the ordinance should be put on the backburner for at least six months until the commission finishes its work on the housing element, which calls for rezoning select sites for higher density to accommodate 1,300 units. The housing element is headed for a public vote in November.

“This is not the time to do this,” Brandenburg said. “We have too much work to do.”

Brandenburg also took issue with how the proposed ordinance will be enforced, but O’Grady stated the agenda item was strictly to talk about where the ordinance is at, not commissioner stances on the matter.

The commission will weigh in on the ordinance at an undetermined date, a big step that could influence how the Encinitas City Council ultimately votes on it.

In August, the urban agriculture subcommittee’s draft ordinance went before the commission, but commissioners voted to continue the hearing so that city staff could answers questions over how the ordinance will be enforced, whether cities with similar ordinances have experienced problems and more. The commission then went over the ordinance in December and another time in January.

The agriculture subcommittee, made up of Encinitas councilmembers Catherine Blakespear and Tony Kranz, scheduled a meeting with O’Grady on Feb. 9 to gauge the latest on the ordinance. That meeting was not open to the public.

In response to initial commission concerns and public feedback, the agriculture subcommittee in November announced it’s no longer in favor of relaxing residential livestock buffers, which would have made it easier to raise chickens or goats without special permitting. Instead, the commission revised the ordinance to focus on encouraging community gardens and new farms by slashing red tape and permitting costs.

The draft ordinance also calls for allowing homeowners to sell fruits, vegetables and “value added” products like jam from residential farm stands for up to 12 daylight hours a week without permitting. That’s so long as the products were produced onsite and the stand is no more than 120 square feet in size.


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