Land Use

Land Use Committee Report

Submitted By Peter Bauer, Land Use Committee Chair

 Owner Operated Camping

The MCFB Land Use Committee held a Zoom meeting with Supervisors Williams and McGourty in early June to discuss the proposal for a county ordinance connected to owner operated camping allowances. Since 2020, online companies such as HipCamp, have increased in popularity. These companies allow private landowners to sign up through their websites to charge for camping (tent, RV, glamping structures, etc.). There are 50+ HipCamp sites in Mendocino County currently that can be seen on the company’s website.

Nationally, a lot of these owner operated camp sites are located on farm or ranch properties. Some states have included owner operated camping into allowances for agritourism to account for the activity on working lands. In California, counties seem to be handling the issue in various ways. Some have existing camping ordinances in place, others, like Mendocino County, are looking into developing ordinances while some don’t seem to have plans for any oversight.

ing our conversation with the Supervisors, concerns such as: property setbacks for camping locations, respect for easements, road access, fire hazard mitigation, sanitation facilities, onsite management, impacts to base farm/ranch operations/adjoining operations and Williamson Act allowances were discussed. For example, the county Williamson Act policies do not allow for camping or campgrounds on contracted parcels as these are not considered compatible uses.

The county is interested in capturing the transient occupancy tax (TOT) from these camping venues and provide some oversight to address some of the concerns listed above. The question is what kind of permitting will be required for owner operated camp sites. There was discussion about keeping the process simple and to have the revue scrutiny based on the proposed number of camp sites. Using the existing use permit system was also an option.

The Board of Supervisors briefly discussed this issue on June 8th where MCFB staff submitted oral comments that focused on the importance of not having potential owner operated camping sites impact neighboring farm or ranch operations as well as concerns with compatibility with properties under Williamson Act contracts. The Board gave some direction to Planning and Building staff to come back with a draft ordinance at a future date.

This topic has support from some MCFB members that are interested in hosting owner operated camp sites to diversify their farm income portfolios and there are equally as many members that are concerned that camping facilities could be problematic. MCFB and the Land Use Committee will continue to engage on this issue as it evolves.

To see the rest of the article, please visit the Members Only Page.

Insurance Non-Renewal or Cancellation

Mendocino County farmers, ranchers, timber property owners, residents and business owners have seen their property insurance or commercial insurance policies non-renewed or canceled over the past several years due in part to the reevaluation of coverage connected to wild fire risk scores.

In order to retain insurance coverage, the process has become more complicated with higher costs. Instead of a single policy, agents are now working to stack policies in order to retain adequate coverage for the property, equipment, liability, etc. If traditional market placement isn’t successful, the CA FAIR Plan is the last resort option that many have turned to.

In relation to the CA FAIR Plan, CA Farm Bureau was successful in working to have legislation passed, SB 11, that added the ability to have farm or ranch property covered under the FAIR plan. The ability to access the FAIR plan for agricultural policies is expected in early 2022.

Each policy is a bit different and there are many questions that those with non-renewed or canceled policies have been trying to find answers to. For this reason, MCFB hosted a workshop in September 2021 to provide some information to consider if policies had been non-renewed or cancelled.

For some additional information on considerations related to the standard insurance markets, please see the presentation HERE

For some additional information on SB 11 and the FAIR Plan, please see the presentation HERE

Williamson Act

The California Land Conservation Act, more popularly known as the Williamson Act, was created when the Assembly Agriculture Committee undertook a study in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and others that eventually led to the passage of legislation in 1965.

Under the Williamson Act, an owner of agricultural land may enter into a contract with the county if the landowner agrees to restrict use of the land to the production of commercial crops for a term of not less than 10 years. The term of the contract is automatically extended each year unless notice of cancellation or nonrenewal is given. Certain compatible uses are also allowed on the property. In return, the landowner is taxed on the capitalization of the income from the land, and not on the Proposition 13 value. Additional information on the California Land Conservation Act is available from the California Department of Conservation at http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/lca.

Mendocino County Williamson Act Information

Mendocino County Agricultural Preserve Application

Mendocino County Agricultural Preserve Contract

Mendocino County Williamson Act Ordinance

Mendocino County Sustainable Ag Lands Committee Fact Sheet

The Great Redwood Rail Trail Proposal

The Great Redwood Trail proposal provides public access for a number of recreational purposes (hiking, biking and equestrian uses) which could create impacts to the numerous private properties that the rail line currently crosses in the 300 miles of track plus spur lines (there are 1300 parcels that the RR line crosses/borders in Mendocino County alone). There are numerous private properties, a number of these are involved in farming or ranching, that may be impacted by the placement and/or use of the trail.  This may also require the construction of trail crossings, further imperiling adjacent land holders. Since this trail is 300 miles long, issues related to garbage, camping/overnight stays, human waste or possible fire risk should also be considered. The legislation is unclear as to how disputes related to these types of interactions may be dealt with.  Moreover, due to deteriorating conditions along the defunct rail line and the associated deferred maintenance issues, the newly established Great Redwood Trail Agency may consider alternative routes beyond the scope of the existing right-of-way which may result in the dissection of private property.

If the existing railroad adjoins or crosses your property in Mendocino County, you should pay attention to this rail trail proposal as it moves forward. Farm Bureau is not against public recreational opportunities, however the potential impacts to farming and ranching operations as well as private properties along the proposed trail route cannot be ignored.