Letter to BCC – Dec 3, 2013

12/03/2013

Madam Chair and Commissioners:

The Santa Fe Food Policy Council, as an advisory body to both the City and County of Santa Fe, has an active interest in promoting a future of local food security through the protection of agricultural resources, skill sets, and residents’ right to farm. The approval of the Sustainable Land Development Code (SLDC) is a mechanism in which we, as a County, can articulate a clear framework prioritizing agriculture and holding a space for the cultural, economic, ecological, and health-related benefits which are associated with a strong local food system.

Since the approval of the County’s Sustainable Growth Management Plan in early 2011, the Santa Fe Food Policy Council has been working with staff of the County Growth Management and Land Use Department to transform those recommendations in the form of the SLDC. However, the current version of the Code does not yet reflect the agricultural goals included in the County’s Sustainable Growth Management Plan.

The SFFPC supports a Code that includes a set of clear and quantifiable methods of gathering funds from development processes that in turn will be used to invest in agriculture. We ask the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to instruct staff to develop these methods, working with the SFFPC and other stakeholders, and to present them as part of a final DRAFT development code for BCC approval.

The historic ‘Right To Farm’ that has shaped this region’s development, and which has been a cornerstone for New Mexican family self-sufficiency, would be revoked by the proposed zoning districts. Without other mechanisms to support local agricultural use, the Code as written, will result in continued and progressive elimination of agricultural opportunity in the County. Through the new Code we want to minimize additional layers of cost and confusion associated with small and medium-scale farming in Santa Fe County. As a predominately rural county with a living agricultural heritage, it is essential that steps are taken now which support both traditional and innovative methods of food production as key assets in future development plans. The Santa Fe Food Policy Council maintains a position that while agriculture is the highest and best use for land, development is both necessary and beneficial. The movement from a “Right to Farm” based (un-zoned) County code, to one that is fully zoned, will add costs to all agricultural enterprises. To mitigate these costs for Santa Fe County farmers and ranchers, it is imperative that this transition in zoning include mechanisms of investment which strategically protect and support our region’s agricultural assets amid future development. The following recommendations for the SLDC will support a framework for a mutually beneficial relationship between agriculture and development in Santa Fe County.

• A place-holder for an ‘Agricultural Activities Overlay District’ which has specific language detailing necessary components of functional crop farming and small-scale livestock operations which will be permitted under this overlay district.

• Revisions to the proposed section for Transfer of Development Rights to include language that favors the preservation of agricultural land uses. (i.e. a program that rewards lot owners and developers for enhancing agricultural opportunities through retirement of existing lots (this concept can applied equally well to irrigated acres and ranged land for grazing.)

• The inclusion of an Agricultural section in Chapter 10, Supplemental Zoning Standards, which will be cited under ‘Special Conditions’ in Appendix B, pages 6 & 7 for clarification and definition of terms used in the Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation/Open Space section of the Use Table.

• The inclusion of ‘Conservation Subdivisions’, or a similar mechanism by which zoning districts have incentivized options of clustering development within a portion of the parcel, thereby retaining continuity in the surrounding landscape for agricultural production or other landscape conservation practices.

• The inclusion of mechanisms to offset or reverse the trend of agricultural land (and water) lost to competing uses which result in higher land values. An example we recommend has precedent in Connecticut, and addresses this concern through a transaction fee on all permits with the funds then allocated to costs associated with area agricultural activities and for the preservation of farmland.

Simultaneous to the development of the SLDC, the Santa Fe Food Policy Council has, in partnership with numerous stakeholders throughout the community, spearheaded an effort which represents another major step on our collective journey toward building a local, healthy, and prosperous food system for Santa Fe County. This October, a draft of the first ever Food Plan for Santa Fe region, “Planning for Santa Fe’s Food Future: Querencia, a Story of Food, Farming, and Friends,” was released. Over the upcoming year, this document will serve as a tool to reach out to all corners of our county to gain input, understanding, and build relationships around how to design a local food system that works within our regional context. Our process will culminate in the development of a final strategic food plan for the City and County of Santa Fe— a detailed roadmap for action and accountability around food related issues.

‘Growing Food: Goal Area 5’ is a section of “Planning for Santa Fe’s Food Future” which speaks directly to the potential of the SLDC in shaping a future of agricultural viability and food security in Santa Fe County. This goal, and associated action items can be found on p. 16 of the document, and are outlined below:

Goal 5: Increase the viability of local farm and ranch activity by working with the City and County to ensure land use plans are supportive of agricultural use.

• Work with Santa Fe County to incorporate land use allowances for agricultural activity into the SLDC.

• Develop innovative land use strategies that promote density in urban areas and reserve outlying lands for increased food production.

• Support land conservation strategies such as agricultural easements which provide tax incentives to land owners to protect their lands from development for all future generations Through the lens of ‘Growing Food: Goal Area 5’ and past work with the County Growth Management and Land Use Department, the Santa Fe Food Policy Council is in favor of and fully supports the following proposed edits for adoption in SLDC which were presented on November 19, 2013.

• Crop Production Greenhouses changed from ‘Conditional’ to ‘Permitted’ use in Appendix B for all proposed zoning districts.

• Amendment of language in the existing ‘Rural Commercial District’ to include language which clearly specifies agricultural business, production, storage, and/or processing as permitted or conditional uses.

The members of the Santa Fe Food Policy Council look forward to working in collaboration with the Board of County Commissioners and staff on refinements of the Sustainable Land Development Code prior to its enactment. We are confident that this partnership will result in an increased capacity to manage future concerns of agriculture and food security within Santa Fe County and a Sustainable Land Development Code that the Santa Fe Food Policy Council can fully support.

Please feel free to call us if you have suggestions and wish to discuss this further.
Sincerely,
Susan J. Perry, Chair
City of Santa Fe Wellness Coordinator
505-955-4048 sjperry@ci.santa-fe.nm.us

Erin Lloyd Ortigoza, Coordinator
505-473-1004, ext. 16
lightningcalm@hotmail.com

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