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Local News

Fairview Gardens Cultivating a Compliant Image

Goleta says the popular urban farm is meeting the terms of a plan to improve operations and living conditions

Almost two years after nearby residents took it to task for noise, sanitation violations and inadequate worker housing, Fairview Gardens and the surrounding neighborhood are back on amicable terms.

Goleta city staff found Fairview Gardens measuring up to compliance standards Monday evening as the nonprofit urban farm continues on its way to upgrading its facilities and becoming more neighbor-friendly. The changes are part of a city-approved five-year improvement plan for the 12.5-acre site.

“We’ve had to dig ourselves out of a tremendous hole,” said Phil Seymour, Fairview Gardens’ attorney. For the last 19 months, the farm has been struggling to comply with orders to improve its worker housing and infrastructure, and to make its poultry operations less of a nuisance to neighbors who live within earshot of roosters.

Nowadays, there are no roosters on site, and there are plans in place to move temporary worker housing closer to the main farmhouse, eventually building more permanent dwellings. The farm is also in the process of hooking up to Goleta Sanitary District sewer lines.

Despite the flagging economy and general hardship of raising funds to comply with its improvement plan, the farm has been able to generate the roughly $321,000 it took to get the short-term fixes made.

The next phase, according to Scott Kolwitz, the city planner working with the farm and its neighbors, will be to come up with the $160,000 to pay for the sewer lines. The biggest push for funds, he said, would be the $2.5 million needed to construct permanent farmworker housing, a project set to be completed by 2013.

Fairview Gardens, which occupies a site traditionally used for agriculture for more than a century, has for years been the subject of neighbor complaints over noise and unsanitary conditions. While applying for permits for some of its structures in late 2007, neighbors pressed their case for changes. Although the farm passed health inspections, the noise and inadequate farmworker housing came to the attention of the city.

Through a series of meetings and hearings, the farm was eventually able to set a course toward better operations and relations with its neighbors.

“The results are really greatly appreciated,” said Jim Hurst, a neighbor whose backyard abuts the farm. “I’m looking forward to their continuing success.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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