Stanislaus supervisors to delve into ag preservation rule

gstapley@modbee.comApril 29, 2013 

DN West Park

(Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) Supervisor Jim DeMartini questions Kamilos. Stanislaus supervisors listened as developer Gerry Kamilos, his staff, and others spoke before them, Tuesday, June 19, 2012.

DEBBIE NODA — Modesto Bee Buy Photo

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textGarth Stapley
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: Regional water, growth, land-use and transportation; civil law, real estate fraud and special projects
    Bio: In his 19 years with The Bee, Garth Stapley has focused on city and county government
    E-mail: gstapley@modbee.com

— Stanislaus County leaders will debate another angle on saving farmland this morning, one that failed to gain support of county planning commissioners.

At issue is so-called mitigation, or the county's requirement that developers permanently preserve elsewhere an acre of farmland for every acre to be sacrificed for new housing.

That ratio could be increased, to the detriment of home builders, under a revision proposed by Supervisor Jim DeMartini.

He championed the mitigation rule when it was narrowly adopted six years ago, and pushed a growth-guiding agency to approve another farmland conservation policy last year affecting the county's nine cities.

Officials are behind on a schedule to update the county's agricultural element, which includes the mitigation rule, every five years. Other proposed revisions would discourage solar plants on prime farmland, improve food safety and call for new rules on the sale of groundwater. The latter is a hot-button issue for farmers and water districts that is expected to surface next month.

DeMartini said he proposed that the county retain power to force a developer to set aside more than one acre for each acre developed; decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis, he said Monday.

"I put it in so we could have some flexibility in areas that are more sensitive and might require more than one-to-one," he said.

Planning commissioners, some of whom came to the panel after the ag element was debated in 2007, deadlocked 3-3 when asked in March to weigh in on DeMartini's proposal. Some don't even like the current policy, saying it could prompt developers to take their business to other counties, a report says.

Options today include approving or rejecting the revision, inserting new language, or asking staff or the planning commission to revisit the issue.

Two additional planning items are on today's agenda:

A new rule making it harder to create smaller home lots in Knights Ferry and La Grange historic districts. Neighbors were upset when a developer prevailed in court and subsequently won supervisors' approval last year for such lots overlooking the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry.

Plans by Gallo Glass to expand a storage area and parking lot on land bought from adjacent property owners. Some neighbors objected when planning commissioners reviewed the project in March, expressing fears of noise, more traffic and lowered property value.

Also today, supervisors will consider moving elections for five school districts from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years.

The Hughson, Newman-Crows Landing, Salida, Stanislaus Union and Waterford districts fear lawsuits from groups promoting minority representation. County Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan says in a report that moving to a busier election would add length to ballots and voter pamphlets, increasing combined costs for the five districts from about $26,300 to as much as $53,400.

On the Web: www.stancounty.com/bos/agenda/ 2013/Ag04-30-13.pdf.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or (209) 578-2390.

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