Board of Supervisors needs to consider farmers’ wants and needs

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Placer County has a proud ranching and farming heritage that dates back a couple of centuries.  On April 9, a 3-2 majority of the Placer Board of Supervisors demonstrated their willingness to sell out this heritage for parties.

Last month, the board approved the Gold Hill Gardens “Community Center,” a project so inappropriate in its scope and location that the Rural Lincoln MAC and the Ag Commission recommended against it and the Planning Commission voted to deny the permit for the project.  Despite overwhelming protest from local residents, on March 26, the board, without much discussion, reversed the Planning Commission decision and approved the permit.

Gold Hill Gardens’ owner has not disputed that the primary purpose of his facility is weddings, parties and agritourism, with a boutique farm and plant nursery attached.  The previously approved private “community center,” at Wise Villa Winery is essentially a restaurant on the winery premises.  Trouble is, the sights, sounds and smells of true farming processes aren’t very compatible with someone’s wedding or graduation party.  As these faux ag operations move deep into rural Placer farmlands, are farmers going to be pressured not to spray their crops because the tourists are sitting down to dinner?  Are ranchers going to be deterred from moving their stock because the wedding procession is using the road?

At its April 9 hearing, the board voted for a 45-day “moratorium” on “community center” applications and directed Planning to write new definitions and guidelines for future private event centers.  There is no public input into this process, even from farmers and ranchers who will be most affected by the presence of entertainment venues in their neighborhoods.

We propose the following simple attributes that all private event centers in agricultural zoning must have to minimize the impact of these facilities on rural neighborhoods:

Direct access from arterial or better roadways.

Within three miles of the nearest city limits and/or adjacent to property zoned “commercial.”

Located at least six miles from another private event center.

Placer County can be agritourism-friendly but not at the price of real agriculture.

Carol Rubin, Save Placer Farmlands, Newcastle