The meandering process to update Marin’s coastal development regulatory regime took yet another turn Tuesday, when a local environmental group came out against the land-use plan and the county board of supervisors tabled its amendments for two months.
Supervisors had originally planned to vote to send their amendments to the Local Coastal Program (LCP) to the California Coastal Commission at their sixth hearing on the topic this week but postponed the vote as they fine-tuned amendments that have been crafted during a five-year process. The sprawling LCP document, which governs 48,255 acres of shoreline development from Dillon Beach to Stinson Beach, has not been altered since 1981.
At a Civic Center hearing this week, the director of the Environmental Action Committee (EAC) of West Marin said that the current document was a backwards-step from the status quo. Amy Trainer said that despite her Point Reyes Station-based group spending hundreds of hours wading through documents and sending suggestions to the county, supervisors have still proposed amendments that would subvert the balance between family farming and environmental protection.
“One of the major continuing issues is what flexibility and what regulations will govern development on agricultural-zoned property, and the [Marin County] Farm Bureau has staked out an extreme position,” EAC Board President Bridger Mitchell said in an interview. “They want almost no regulation of their business activities. And the environmental community says, well, there need to be regulations.”
The EAC’s remarks signified a widening rift between farming and environmental groups as supervisors converge around a final set of amendments that satisfy what staff have defined as the core remaining issues. The complex document could shape shoreline housing, energy, tourism and transportation policies for decades, but some of the more contentious proposals have put environmental and agricultural groups at loggerheads.
Among a host of issues EAC has asked for larger, non-discretionary buffer areas to prevent development around streams and sensitive habitats, while the farm bureau has pushed for farmers’ and ranchers’ development rights.
“I wasn’t surprised by EAC’s decision to hold back support for the plan, because their laser focus has been on resource issues while the
plan addresses a wider array of community needs,” Supervisor Steve sKinsey wrote in an email. “The most encouraging result of the hearing was the unanimous support of the Board of Supervisors for the plan.”
Dominic Grossi, a longtime Marin dairy farmer, said agriculturalists on the coast already have to contend with a patchwork of regulations by a host of organizations: state and regional water and air quality control boards watch for water pollution, county health inspectors and land-use officials monitor food quality and home size and the coastal commission requires permits for some crop choices.
“With regard to setbacks, we are merely trying to protect the ag land that we currently have,” Mr. Grossi wrote in an email. “Forcing us 100 feet away from a stream when there is evidence from a certified biologist that only 20 feet is necessary to protect the streams is excessive. So we believe that a site assessment should be used to protect the streams and the ag use of the property.”
Among the board’s amendments is a policy that would allow adjustments to buffer zones around protected streams in cases where “permitted development cannot be feasibly accommodated entirely outside the required buffer.”
The board is now expected to finalize and approve its LCP amendments at a June 11 meeting. Mr. Kinsey, who also serves as a coastal commissioner, said he hoped for an expedited, one-year process for the commission to certify the LCP. But Mr. Mitchell said it was doubtful that the commission would approve of the amendments’ weakened ecological protections.