Contra Costa County Adopts Agriculture and Open Space Policy
By Aaron Davis
The county’s local regulatory commission recently adopted county-wide policies to preserve farms and open land and put limits on urban sprawl, but specifics and details continue to be worked out.
On Nov. 9, the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission adopted policies governing the conversion of open space and agricultural lands into land for development.
The commission looked at three separate versions that gave a varying degree of responsibility to either LAFCO or the developer to propose conditions when converting these lands to other uses.
“We did, at the end of the day, strike a balance between the development community and the farming, ranching and environmental communities,” said Lou Ann Texeira, executive officer of Contra Costa LAFCO.
Nearly 18 months after the process began, with votes split down the middle on certain issues and letters of support or opposition coming in from cities, conservation groups, farmers’ associations and developer’s associations, the commission agreed to the first version of its policy.
Version 1 allows the applicant to come up with his own proposals to minimize impacts on agricultural operations or open spaces, without baseline measures from LAFCO, as a starting point with the opportunity to review after one year.
“There was concern from the building community, so the commissioners said ‘Let’s start with version 1 and when we review it in a year, we will see how it’s worked out and reassess whether we need to beef it up a little,’” Texeira said.
The adopted version will still go through some refinement, but conservation agencies such as the Greenbelt Alliance, and agricultural agencies, such as the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust, support it.
“We were hoping that the county would have a county-wide policy and it appears they will, which is good,” said Tom Bloomfield, chairman of the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust. “There is still lots of language that needs to be finalized, such as whether the funds go to a qualified land trust or a community development department.”
Bloomfield said that the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust asked for a policy requiring the mitigation of one acre of agricultural land for every one acre converted to urban uses, and this was included in the final version.
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This article was originally published by the East Bay Times.