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Santa Barbara County to start working on farmstay ordinance

Santa Barbara County to start working on farmstay ordinance

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Work is expected to begin soon on developing a long-awaited ordinance to allow Santa Barbara County farms and ranches to host overnight guests using a less-than-perfect template to avoid delaying the project even longer.

The County Board of Supervisors directed the staff to develop a farmstay ordinance based on one in the Gaviota Coast Plan, although it will probably be modified later when the agricultural tiered permit ordinance is developed.

Meanwhile, a diverse coalition of farmers and ranchers called the Farmstay Advisory Committee is formulating ordinance provisions the group hopes the county will adopt.

Planning and Development Department Director Lisa Plowman brought the issue to the board Tuesday to give supervisors an opportunity to change the work plan and direction because people are starting to think about farmstays more broadly than what the Gaviota plan allows.

“I think this offers us the opportunity to think more broadly about ag tourism, about how ag tourism could be facilitated by our Park and Recreation Master Plan and trails, and thinking about not just what we did in the Gaviota Coast Plan, which is somewhat narrow and restricted for many reasons, and think more broadly and creatively about what we can do for the county as a whole,” 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said.

The Gaviota ordinance allows farms and ranches of 40 acres or more in Ag 2 zones to host a maximum of 15 overnight guests and provide them with food service by obtaining a land use or coastal development permit.

No new structures can be built to provide farmstays, and the land must remain a working farm or ranch, with farmstays only an incidental use.

The farmstay ordinance was originally part of the agriculturally tiered permit program that would allow new agriculturally related uses with lower-level permits, but it was pulled out several years ago in an effort to fast-track its development, but Plowman said that didn’t work out as planned.

“While I wanted to pursue a framework for a farmstay ordinance, when I voted with the majority I didn’t mean to prohibit farmstays for … four years,” 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said. “So I’m anxious to move on.”

Steven Counts Imara, a planner in the Long Range Planning Division, outlined a work schedule that could result in a farmstay ordinance effective in the inland areas by fall of 2021 and in the Coastal Zone by the end of 2022.

When Williams asked how offering incentives to farmers and ranchers in exchange for farmstay permits would affect the work plan, Dan Klemann, deputy director of the Long Range Planning Division, said it would extend it considerably.

He also said it would bring the farmstay ordinance closer to what will be considered in the tiered permit program, making both projects more inefficient.

He said the board could fold farmstays back into the tiered permit program and move that off the back burner into the work plan, but some other project would then have to be placed on hold.

“I would love to see a farmstay ordinance; I just don’t want to see the utility solar ordinance delayed,” Williams said, adding he hoped additional funding could be allocated to speed up projects.

During public comment, John Parke told supervisors about the Farmstay Advisory Committee that’s developing a recommended ordinance, suggesting the county allow winery tasting rooms to serve food and hold small special events without permits.

At Plowman’s suggestion, the board agreed to proceed with a farmstay ordinance based on the Gaviota Coast version, then further address the issue in the agriculturally tiered permit program.

“That would give us time to work with the advisory committee,” Plowman said. “I think there are some really rich ideas we’d like to explore, but [that would] allow this one project to move forward.”

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