Pixel Tracker

Monday, December 17 , 2018, 10:04 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 56º


Goleta Council Grants Reprieve But Won’t Waive $46,000 in Back Fees for Fairview Gardens

The financially embattled nonprofit is given a couple of months to come up with a complete business plan and repayment schedule

The Goleta City Council on Tuesday gave Fairview Gardens a couple of months to decide how it’s going to pay nearly $50,000 in processing fees it owes to the city.

While council members said they sympathized with the plight of the financially embattled nonprofit, they were reluctant to waive the fees.

“We have rules,” Councilman Ed Easton said. “We have fees that are set based on what it costs in terms of staff time.”

The outstanding fees are a combination of unpaid balances for the processing of several permits the urban agricultural farm acquired for various operations and structures, including a farm labor camp and commercial poultry operations. Other debt comes from an ordinance amendment request for the sale of produce grown off site and a permit for special events. The $46,873.80 the urban organic farm owes is an unpaid balance for fees that were due in July 2009.

“We’ve been operating in the red since 2010,” Executive Director Mark Tollefson said, citing the poor economy of the last couple of years, coupled with wet weather, as well as the cost of construction needed to bring the farm to code.

Among the things the nonprofit 12-acre organic urban farm must bring back to the City Council in a couple of months is a completed business plan, proof of stability on the organization’s board and an agreed-upon payment schedule for the fees. Staff then will review the fees to assess where reductions may be made, and the City Council will consider its options.

“I think we need to know more and see more,” Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell said.

Fairview Gardens is a 12-acre certified organic farm at 598 N. Fairview Ave. in Goleta. The farm dates back over a century, with the organization formed around it in 1998 in an effort to preserve its agricultural history as well as to serve as a model of a small regional farm within the community. The farm is loved by many who appreciate its mission of growing healthy local food and its efforts to keep the community connected with its food.

As it retained its agricultural operations, residences were built up around the farm, resulting in sometimes uneasy relationships with its closest neighbors, who had to live with the noise, smell and the busy operations. 

When the city incorporated in 2002, it inherited a code compliance case for an unpermitted farm worker camp housing several workers who lived on-site in semi-permanent housing. A year later, in an attempt to come into compliance, the organization submitted several applications for other operations.

Tensions with the neighbors remained, as they complained about unsanitary conditions, noise and inadequate farmworker housing. Inspections resulted in orders for the farm to hook up to the sewer system, move the poultry operations off-site and provide better housing. Given the organization’s tight finances, this proved to be a years-long operation, split into several phases.

The farm also had to submit to regular inspections and reporting of its progress, but eventually got back on the neighbors’ good side. Fairview Gardens has completed four of the five phases at a cost of more than $400,000, much of which, Tollefson acknowledged, the organization still owes as a loan. The fifth phase, constructing more permanent housing for the workers, is estimated to cost $1.5 million and has a deadline of July 1, 2013.

Several supporters of Fairview Gardens expressed their heartfelt, even emotional support of the farm’s activities. Some took the City Council to task for what seemed like punitive actions, and others urged the council to waive the outstanding fees.

“We need special places like this,” local resident Vic Cox said, suggesting that the council look into an extended repayment period and other “flexibilities” that may accommodate the farm’s situation.

City staff does not have the leeway to grant waivers or extensions without the direction of the council.

The item will be back before the City Council at its July 21 meeting.

Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.