Placer supes agree to drop agricultural event fee

Critic says lost fee income during cutbacks doesn?t make sense
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Supervisors have agreed to plans for Placer County to stop charging a $425 fee to process temporary outdoor event permits related to agriculture. But a critic of discontinuing the fee says that it doesn?t make sense when the Board of Supervisors is making cuts in vital services. Supervisors went along with a Community Development/Resource Agency recommendation earlier this month that provides for a free permit process and also directs agricultural-event applicants to Agriculture Commissioner Josh Huntsinger to ensure they understand the safety and health hurdles they still face. ?It?s a chance for me to sit down ahead of time with applicants and give them a reasonable expectation on issues like narrow, private roads versus going to the planning department and being told ?no? and discouraged,? Huntsinger said. ?It would also verify the agricultural nature of the event.? But Auburn resident Ernie Jay is questioning the waiver on fees that would help to pay for safety inspections and other costs. ?A small, privileged group will not have to pay while the rest of us will,? Jay said. ?On one hand, the county claims to preserve agriculture, but it approves one development after another, amends the general plan, and changes zoning ordnances to destroy ag lands.? Jay said no waiver should be implemented and if is, that it should be delayed until the county can restore vital services it has already cut. Planner Crystal Jacobsen told the board that that the process without a fee doesn?t change any conditions of approval or any other costs that could be associated with road or other improvements needed to hold an event. Jacobson said that the county?s general plan pledges to improve the financial viability of the agricultural sector through actions that have the potential to reduce costs and increase profits. The impact on the county?s revenue would be minimal, given the rate of past permits, Jacobsen said. County figures show a total of 77 temporary outdoor event permits issued since 2004, of which 12 were agriculture-related. Supervisors approved the fee waiver but wanted the program closely watched over the course of the next two years, in relation to its effectiveness in encouraging agriculture. Chairwoman Jenifer Montgomery requested that staff produce a report in two years to detail whether the fee was the problem in encouraging permits ? or whether it was the process to obtain the permit. Huntsinger will advise the planning department on what events are agriculturally related. But Montgomery cautioned that she wouldn?t like to see something like a ?rave? dance event on agricultural land on the list. County Counsel Anthony La Bouff added, to laughter, that there could be come questions if zucchini is handed out. Supervisor Jack Duran said he would like to see figures within a year on whether the volume of requests has increased, and by how much.