Loomis approves agricultural recommendation

New conditions would add conservation plan to new subsdivisions
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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The Loomis Planning Commission is recommending the adoption of conditions for new major subdivisions where agriculture is shared between lots. Four of the five planning commissioners approved the recommendation at the Oct. 19 meeting. Commissioner Jean Wilson cast the only no vote. “This interferes with right to farm, if we are trying to promote farming. We can’t tie them up (the property owners) and act like it’s a Disneyland of a farm,” Wilson said. The planning commission recommended to require a conservation plan and adherence to all county, state and federal regulations related to agricultural use in new major residential subdivisions (five or more lots), when two or more lots have shared agricultural usage of five acres or more. If approved by council, the requirement will be a condition of all new, major residential subdivisions and will be included in the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions of the subdivision. Kathy Kerdus, Loomis planning director, said town staff and the town attorney will be identifying enforcement measures that could be taken, and will also forward those to council. Those measures could include revoking approvals and identifying the subdivision as nonconforming, which would keep any homeowner in the subdivision from receiving any new permits from the town. Commissioner Kim Fettke was participating in her last commission meeting because she is moving to a home located just outside the town limits. Fettke said she wanted property owners to get an education before embarking on a shared agricultural project and said a conservation plan will do that. “I want them to get a conservation plan. I want it on paper. I don’t want it to be more of an enforcement thing. I want it to be educational,” Fettke said. Conservation plans are available to property owners at no cost through the Placer County Resource Conservation District. Following the plan is not required by the department, but instead is left to the discretion of the property owner. The planning commissioners have spent numerous meetings discussing ways to implement an Open Space Committee 2 recommendation calling for environmental review of agriculture. The Loomis General Plan states, “Loomis shall allow property owners the ‘right to farm’ their parcels through the protection and operation of agricultural uses.” According to the Loomis Municipal Code, the areas zoned residential agricultural, residential estate and rural residential can be farmed. Called “the Montserrat clause” by Mayor Gary Liss at the September planning commission meeting, the new rule would attempt to prevent a repeat of the Sierra de Montserrat development that was approved in 1999, but not developed at that time. Years later, a new owner added 32 acres of vineyards. The vineyards stretch across multiple properties and required no further review or approval by the town. Town staff is still conducting some research on the recommendation and then will forward it to the town council. Matt Lopez, town planner, said the agriculture recommendation could possibly be included on the November council agenda.