(And Happy New Year, everyone!)
Principles Regarding Farmland Conservation in Coyote Valley
January 4, 2006
The Friends of the Coyote Valley Greenbelt, The Sierra Club, Loma Prieta Chapter, Committee for Green Foothills, Greenbelt Alliance and the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society are all organizations concerned with smart growth, sustainable land use and preservation of open space. We believe that the following farmland conservation principles must guide any proposals for the future of Coyote Valley:
Require mitigation for converted farmland
· Since developers propose converting Coyote Valley farmland to other uses, the developers must mitigate the lost farmland by funding the preservation of farmland on at least a one-for-one acre basis.
· All developed properties should be subject to the mitigation requirement, regardless of the subsequent use of the property. For policy reasons, some properties such as affordable housing may carry a lower share of the mitigation burden, but other properties must then make up the difference.
· Funding should be sufficient to acquire lands or easements for agriculture as well as a program of land/easement acquisition and management in the Greenbelt. The funding should also support programs to promote agricultural activities. The proposed $15 million is not adequate for these objectives.
· The mitigation requirement must be part of any Specific Plan for the Coyote Valley.
Where mitigation should occur
· To the extent possible, mitigation farmland should be secured in the Coyote Valley Greenbelt and other non-hillside lands within the San Jose Sphere of Influence.
· Should insufficient farmland be secured in these areas, only then nearby farmland in Santa Clara County would be considered appropriate mitigation for the remaining acreage.
· The South Coyote Valley Greenbelt is but one component of a true greenbelt. A protected valley floor including farmland protections along with protected hillsides creates a complete greenbelt. The Specific Plan must address plans to protect the hillsides from development.
An Implementation Agency should be identified or created.
· To assure long range viability and public accountability, the entity responsible for agricultural mitigation land acquisition or easements and related administrative support facilities should be a public agency.
·The Specific Plan must include guideline requirements for the agency, including a financial structure to hold funds until the agency is operative.
Our various organizations may have differing views on the future of Coyote Valley, and this joint position paper should not be considered a joint statement on whether development should occur in Coyote Valley. What our organizations share is the position that any specific plan that moves forward must include the preceding farmland conservation principles. Open space protection is a critical component of any smart growth specific plan. These principles focus on agricultural land conservation and do not represent the full suite of principles that should be incorporated into any Specific Plan for Coyote Valley, such as affordable housing, transit accessibility and hillside protection.