The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has voted to move forward on the Farmstay Ordinance Amendment Project after the public expressed immense support for ordinance amendments in the project.

The Farmstay Project, proposed by the Planning and Development Department, proposes revisions to the county’s Land Use and Development Code, its Coastal Zoning Ordinance and its Uniform Rules for Agricultural Preserves and Farmland Security Zones to allow farmstays in unincorporated areas throughout the county.

The Planning and Development Department proposed an Agriculture Tiered Permitting Ordinance that would allow new agricultural-related uses in areas other than the Gaviota Coast. Farmstays currently are only allowed along the Gaviota Coast under the Gaviota Coast Plan and the Coastal Land Use Plan.

Comments from the public showed wide support for the Farmstay Project.

“This ordinance would provide alternate income streams to farmers that would be consistent and compatible with our primary businesses and uses of land,” Mary Heyden of Chamberlin Ranch in Los Olivos said.

Theo Stephan of Global Gardens in Los Olivos said the project provides an “obvious economic benefit” to the farms and a cultural benefit to the visitors. “Visitors should be able to see the profound, dedicated and generational commitment to the land.”

“I can’t think of a better way for city folk to experience a sunset than on a vineyard with a glass of wine from its vines,” Kyle Wolf said. “How great would it be for them to see where their salads actually come from.”

The Planning and Development Department sought the board’s input and concurrence on the scope-of-work for the project.

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said she sees the project as a “tremendous opportunity” for the county. She noted the “educational gap” between consumers and agriculture. 

“We’re very much divorced from where our food comes from,” she said.

First District Supervisor Das Williams said he would love to see a Farmstays ordinance that works really well, but he doesn’t want it to detract from or slow down other projects. He recommended proceeding with the Farmstay Project the way it is now, and wrapping the new ideas into the Agriculture Tiered Permitting Ordinance.

Board chairman Gregg Hart said the ordinance offers an opportunity to think more broadly about agricultural tourism and how it can be facilitated.

The estimated timeline for the project calls for it to begin this fall with preparing the project description and initiating public outreach, and to move forward until the Agricultural Preserve Advisory Committee, Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors hearings in the summer of 2021.

After those hearings, the Initiate Coastal Commission certification process must be completed, which takes about 15 months, according to the Planning and Development Department’s Steven Counts Imara.

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.