For Planning Commission Meeting of June 16, 2005 DATE: TO: FROM: SUBJECT: June 3, 2005 Humboldt County Planning Commission

Kirk Girard, Director of Community Development Services Draft Agriculture and Timber Policies for the General Plan Update

Prepared by: ________________________ Tom Hofweber, Supervising Planner Martha Spencer, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION
That the Planning Commission: 1. Receive a staff report and open the workshop to public comments.

DISCUSSION
Summary The Board directed staff to prepare policy options that would meet the recommendations provided in the Sketch Plan Alternatives Summary Report and provide an opportunity for the public to review and comment on these proposed policies. The primary task for this phase is to introduce the public to the proposed agriculture and timber policies, offer a forum for discussion on the issues and “fine tune” these policy options for ultimate inclusion into the draft General Plan. Background The Planning Division of the Community Development Services released the Sketch Plan Alternatives Report in early June of 2004 in order to provide generalized depictions of proposed land use development scenarios for the General Plan Update process. The report also included policy options to be considered with these sketch plans alternatives that could be “mixed and matched” in order to get the best fit for future development in the County. These sketch plans and policy options were developed based upon Board of Supervisor direction received at the conclusion of the Critical Choices phase, technical background studies and discussions with city and service district staff.
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The County hosted numerous workshops throughout the summer to gather comments on the proposed development scenarios and policy options. The protection of resource lands and open space and a desire for infill-oriented affordable housing consistently received significant public support. For example, 76% of the respondents at the six open public meetings held across the County in June favored the focused development pattern of Sketch Plan 3, which offered the highest amount of protection for resource lands. The importance of these agriculture and timber lands to the County’s culture, quality of life, environment and economy has been repeatedly stressed throughout the General Plan Update process. The Board report summarizing last summer’s workshops contained two findings specifically emphasizing the need to develop a plan that ensured long term protection of resource lands and open space. These findings included: “Sketch Plan Key Findings: 1) The proposed project must ensure efficient use of water and sewer services and focus development in those areas and discourage low density residential conversion of resource lands and open space. 7) The proposed project must contain long-term agriculture and timber land protections including increased restrictions on rural subdivisions and patent parcel development.” The Board report also provided direction to staff when developing General Plan policies for the protection of resource lands and open space. These included: Forest Resource Policy Options • • • • Additional policies to ensure adjacent uses are compatible with industrial timber operations A policy statement to support for long term continued timber production A policy statement to protect beneficial uses of sensitive watersheds and critical water supply areas A policy to address urban interface / timber issues in urban fringe areas.

Agricultural Resource Policy Options • • • A policy that the County take a proactive approach to conservation of working resource lands landscapes. A policy to ensure lot line adjustments and other development are consistent with the General Plan densities notwithstanding underlying land units. A policy to allow flexibility for additional development at original homesite areas (similar to RCC standards) for large ranches.

Open Space Policy Options

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• • •

A policy that supports establishment of greenbelts and agricultural buffers to insure separation of existing communities. A policy directing the County to take a proactive approach to conservation of open space. A policy that establishes an open space classification system to serve as a framework for land use planning and environmental resource management programs.

Proposed Resource Lands Policy Revisions In keeping with the Board’s directive to provide clearer policies and maximum protection for resource lands, staff has proposed new land use designations designed specifically at protecting the premier resource lands within the county. For large contiguous ranching operations, staff has proposed a “Ranchlands” designation that provides incentives to keep these operations intact. For farming operations in prime agricultural soils, additional policy has been included to prevent residential subdivision of these areas. An “Industrial Timber” designation has been proposed to reflect the current management operations for the industrial timber owners that prevents residential subdivisions of these areas. Following is a more detailed description of these proposals. Draft Timber Policies The proposed “Industrial Timber” designation removes housing as a use by right and clearly sets a minimum parcel size at 160 acres. Housing in these areas would be by conditional use permit. The anticipated density of such housing would not exceed 1 unit per 600, with the general plan density of 0 units indicating that we do not expect to meet any of the County’s housing need within these areas. The forest resource policies provide for recognition of a density credit of 1 unit per 160 acres for those areas being withdrawn from timber production and converting to other uses by requiring clustering and locating development near existing residential uses. Another important aspect of the forest resources policies is the identification of the wildland-urban interface areas with the inclusion of development standards (Policy T7). This policy would provide support for continued timber production in the wildland-urban interface and guidance for land management opportunities in order to avoid land use conflicts. Draft Agricultural Policies The agricultural policies also include a new “Ranchlands” designation designed to offer additional protection of the premier grazing lands in the County. The density range of the Ranchlands designation is one unit per 600 acres. This designation also contains a withdrawal policy similar to the Industrial Timberlands with a density credit of one unit per 160 acres. Discussions to date with many in the agricultural community have raised some concerns of diminution of land value by utilizing the Ranchlands designation. Staff has received input that the minimum agricultural parcel size should remain at 160 acres based upon what was historically agreed upon. Staff has provided a withdrawal policy that is set at one unit per 160 acres to retain the current land values. The withdrawal policy also provides that the new parcels be clustered and located along existing roads. These standards are expected to protect the viability of the ranchlands, while retaining the land value “credit” of 1 unit per 160 acres. This should better protect the agricultural capabilities of these ranches, rather than the current scattered patterns of 160 acre subdivisions. This type of scattered large-lot land pattern diminishes the capacity of the land and is extremely difficult and
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expensive for the county to service. There is also concern that failing to provide these protection measures will quickly price these lands out of the agricultural production market. The clustering policy provides for maintenance of land values comparable, better planned residential development, and continuing availability of grazing lands. Zoning for Williamson Act contracted lands would remain the same as what is currently contained in the Williamson Act contract (usually AE-B-5(160), TPZ for Class B Preserves). For non-contracted lands, a new zoning designation would be developed that would mirror the standards of the Ranchlands designation. Next Steps Staff will use the input gained from the public workshops to develop a Hearing Draft General Plan, including a range of alternatives for consideration. Where necessary, staff will schedule additional workshops, either before the Planning Commission or with interest groups to refine the recommendations and alternatives.

ATTACHMENTS
ATTACHMENT 1 – Proposed Agriculture and Timber policies ATTACHMENT 2 – Summary notes from Farm Bureau and Cattleman’s Association meetings ATTACHMENT 3 – Summary notes from Industrial Timber owner’s meeting

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