The Coast News Group

Planning Commission: Ag ordinance will have to ‘wait its turn’

ENCINITAS — A long-awaited ordinance that would craft new urban agricultural policies in Encinitas will have to wait its turn for approval, several planning commissioners said.

The discussion took place on Dec. 17, when the commission approved the order of a series of workshops aimed at fine-tuning the proposed ordinance before bringing it back to the commission for a vote.

Planning Commissioner Tasha Boerner Horvath suggested that completing the work on the ordinance, which she described as “long overdue,” should be a priority for the board. Her fellow commissioners, however, said that the ordinance shouldn’t take priority over the current housing element update or any other projects that the commission would consider.

“I don’t see we have any major issues, there aren’t people standing up and screaming for us to get this done or banging on our doors,” Commission vice chair Tony Brandenberg said. “I think we should put this off and get on with other business.”

Commissioners Ruben Flores and Greg Drakos largely echoed Brandenberg’s sentiments.

“Let’s consider it when we have the appropriate time to consider it,” Flores said. “Let’s schedule it as early as the docket allows, but we have to give priority for the existing housing element update.”

The planning commission is a critical piece of the decision making process for the agricultural ordinance, as they are the first body to hear the matter and make a recommendation to the City Council.

The council majority of Lisa Shaffer, Tony Kranz and Catherine Blakespear have made the passage of the ordinance a priority, and they have voiced frustration over the delays it has incurred over the past year.

The proposed ordinance looks to encourage local farming and agriculture-related activities while protecting the suburban value of neighbors. Currently, the city’s rules and codes are largely silent on agriculture, which has stymied at least one attempt to create the city’s first community garden and caused a months-long controversy between a venerable farming operation on Park Lane and the surrounding neighbors.

But the rules have come under fire from both residents and established businesses, who believe the rules will foster the intrusion of agriculture — which they characterized as noisy and dirty — onto established neighborhoods and create competition that would undermine businesses, and farmers and beekeepers who believe some of the rules limit activity currently allowed under the city rules.

A council subcommittee that has been charged with crafting the ordinance recently announced it would back off of plans to relax rules that would have made it easier to raise chickens and goats without a special permit, arguing the backlash had taken the focus away from the overarching goal of the ordinance.

The planning commission said it would likely continue its discussions on the various topics of the ordinance at upcoming meetings.