The 17.5-acre parcel that is the subject of the General Plan Amendment (GPA) authorization request is located just outside the growth boundary of Zamora (Assessor's Parcel Number 055-150-008). The parcel is identified as a 'Targeted Future Agricultural Commercial Site' in Figure LU-2 of the Yolo County General Plan and anticipated for agricultural commercial development in Policy LU-2.2 of the Land Use and Community Character Element (Attachment B). For context, the below provides background relevant to staff's recommendation.
In August, 2010, the Planning Commission approved a Tentative Map that proposed to separate the subject 17.5 acres from the adjoining 371 acres in an effort to facilitate future agricultural commercial growth at the site in accordance with General Plan Policy LU-2.2 and Figure LU-2. The Board subsequently approved Parcel Map No. 4982 in January, 2011, which legally separated the parcel, and the 17.5 acres was later rezoned to the new Agricultural Commercial (A-C) Zone in 2014 upon the Board's adoption of the comprehensive Zoning Code Update. The environmental review for the 2014 Zoning Update indicated that the new A-C Zone would be applied to existing and planned commercial uses in the agricultural areas, which are defined as activities that are related, but incidental, to the primary agricultural use of the area.
At the time Parcel Map No. 4982 was approved, the previous property owner had intended to develop the site as a Yolo Store or other agricultural commercial type of use that would showcase Yolo County's local agricultural bounty. A 'Yolo Store' is defined as a structure where a majority of the items offered for sale are primarily grown or manufactured in Yolo County, such as out-of-county bottled wines that are made from Yolo grapes or locally grown nursery products (Yolo County Code Section 8-2.307). The January 2011 Board letter prepared for approval of the Parcel Map stated that the 'convenient location to Interstate 5 and town of Zamora make the parcel an ideal site for future agricultural commercial development.' Refer to Attachment C for a copy of the Board packet and Parcel Map.
It is important to note that at the time of decision to approve the Parcel Map, creation of a 17.5-acre parcel in the now obsolete Agricultural General (A-1) Zone did not meet the minimum parcel size of 20 acres. However, given the unique circumstances surrounding the General Plan's targeted designation for and anticipated development of the 17.5-acre property, coupled with its location along the Interstate 5 corridor and proximity to Zamora and surrounding agricultural lands, the Board opted to implement Policy LU-2.2 in light of the pending Zoning Code Update that would include a new Agricultural Commercial Zone.
The proposed GPA seeks to amend the General Plan to change the land use designation on the subject 17.5-acre parcel from Agriculture (AG) to Commercial General (CG) to facilitate development of a truck stop. A subsequent Rezone from Agricultural Commercial (A-C) to Highway Services Commercial (C-H) and a Use Permit would also be required. Currently, truck stops, sales and service uses are only permitted in the C-H Zone.
General Plan Vision
Since its inception in 1850, Yolo County has remained dedicated to protecting and enhancing the farming economy. The Countywide General Plan includes such guiding principles as: The success of Yolo County depends upon the success of agriculture (2030 Countywide General Plan, Vision and Principles). Several objectives aimed at meeting this vision include active marketing of Yolo County agricultural products, tourism that showcases agricultural products, regional coordination and marketing to directly connect local growers with potential customers, and successful agricultural businesses. Thus, the Countywide General Plan embraces specific strategies outlined in the Land Use and Community Character Element to ensure opportunities for creating revenue-producing and job-producing agricultural commercial and industrial growth, in limited locations and along key transportation corridors, can be realized.
County Code Requirements for GPA
The General Plan states that requests for amendments by private parties are generally discouraged. Thus, Section 8-2.223(d) of the County Code requires that any General Plan Amendment proposed by a private party must first be authorized for further study by the Board of Supervisors. This authorization would not approve a GPA or other required permits, but is a preliminary step that allows the proposal to be environmentally evaluated and processed by the Department of Community Services.
As required, the proposal by Nor-Cal Farming (otherwise referred to as the Heer Development) was submitted to Community Services Planning staff as a Pre-Application, and much like any development application, Planning staff reviewed the submittal and solicited comments from appropriate Yolo County Departments and local agencies. Additionally, the applicant was asked to prepare a detailed statement identifying the reasons for the GPA authorization request demonstrating how the proposed GPA would further the vision and goals of the General Plan. Attached for the Board's consideration is the applicant's 'Justification Statement' (Attachment D).
The applicant also recently submitted an Economic Benefits Assessment that compares and contrasts the previously anticipated use, i.e., a Yolo Store, with the proposed truck stop use, which has been appended to Attachment D. Although not a required submittal, the Economic Assessment has been provided to assist with the Board's review of the GPA authorization request. Staff's analysis, however, focused primarily on the broader General Plan land use and policy considerations that are contained in this staff report.
After careful review of the Heer Development proposal and justification statement, staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors deny the request for authorization to further study the GPA request due to conflicts with General Plan Land Use Policy LU-2.2 and Figure 2.1 mentioned above and General Plan Agricultural Policy AG-1.5 that strongly discourages the conversion of agricultural land for other uses. Policy AG-1.5 states that, No lands shall be considered for redesignation from Agricultural or Open Space to another land use designation unless all of the following findings can be made:
A. There is a public need or net community benefit derived from the conversion of the land that outweighs the need to protect the land for long-term agricultural use.
B. There are no feasible alternative locations for the proposed project that are either designated for non-agricultural land uses or are less productive agricultural lands.
C. The use would not have a significant adverse effect on existing or potential agricultural activities on surrounding lands designated Agriculture.
The proposal was reviewed by several County divisions, including the Agricultural Commissioner, who opined that the parcel is rated as good farmland with a potential well installation. The Environmental Health Division confirmed that the current property owner (applicant) was issued an approved permit for an irrigation well, but no drilling has occurred to date. The Ag Commissioner further commented that the property was similar in nature to other parcels planted in trees along County Road 12, and that it is a viable agricultural parcel. Conversely, the applicant, who also farms tree crops in other locations in Yolo County, has stated that due to shape and size constraints, the parcel would not be economically feasible to plant in tree crops, despite the good quality soils.
The Agricultural Commissioner recommended that, if the project were to move forward, agricultural mitigation would be required, and indicated that a water use analysis should be conducted to determine if the project would have a negative impact to ground water supplies given it is located in a subsidence area. Additionally, it was recommended that the project should be configured for buffers to adjacent orchards, adding that County Road 99W and adjacent railroad right-of-way could be included as part of the buffer.
Other County reviews include comments received from the Environmental Health and Public Works Divisions, which are included in Attachment E, along with Caltrans and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board comment letters.
Exhibit 1 has been prepared to identify existing locations along the I-5 corridor that are currently vacant and/or under utilized, are already designated for non-agricultural uses, and, more particularly, are zoned for highway services commercial uses. Due to the availability of undeveloped and vacant land already zoned C-H along the I-5 corridor, staff does not believe the request would further the vision and goals of the Countywide General Plan or provide a community benefit that would outweigh the need to protect the land as a future targeted commercial/industrial agricultural site. Therefore, staff recommends denying the GPA authorization request.
Alternatively, The Board of Supervisors could consider a Rezone to Agricultural Industrial (A-I), if the Board determined that a more intensive agricultural support use could benefit from the location and surrounding agricultural community to further the economic viability of the site. The Agricultural Industrial Zone would retain the Agricultural land use designation and still fulfill General Plan policy considerations in the Land Use/Community Character and Agricultural/Economic Development Elements, and remain consistent with the Board's decision to approve Parcel Map No. 4982.
The A-I Zone allows for regionally-serving product processing or ag-related research based facilities, as well as warehousing, transportation facilities, crop dusting, agricultural chemical and equipment sales, and other ag related industries on parcels that are typically not as suitable for growing crops. Of course, the property could also be planted to crops. Unlike the Agricultural Intensive (A-N) and Agricultural Extensive (A-X) Zones, home site development is not an allowed use in the A-C or A-I Zones, with the exception of caretaker residences (requires a Use Permit), farm worker housing (Use Permit in the A-I Zone), and group/care homes. The A-I Zone does not allow for the development of a truck stop.