More commercial farming won’t be coming anytime soon to Cotati. A decision on a new proposed local law addressing urban agriculture in the central Sonoma County city of 7500 has been pushed to a later date. Cotati city council members have tabled the hotly contested ordinance following over two hours of deliberation and public comment at a virtual meeting Tuesday night.
The proposed ordinance would allow for commercial urban agriculture and food production in some of the variously zoned areas of the city. As Noah Housh, Cotati’s Director of Community Development, pointed out, Cotati already allows non-commercial agriculture.
"So right now, the distinction is everyone's allowed to, to have as much agricultural activities on their property as they want in all residential districts, as long as they're not doing it for a profit." Housh said.
And, Cotati already allows certain *commercial* farming activities in certain zones, Housh said the ordinance would simply expand that to crops.
"Currently, anyone in, in these zones, anyone is allowed to do production and, and have farm animals on their property." Housh told the council. "That's a by right use in many of these districts. However, it's crop production specifically that's excluded from our code. So the big change is really to allow crops. So farming activities."
Cotati Vice Mayor Susan Harvey expressed general concern over the potential for disputes between neighbors that she said could well arise from the introduction of urban agriculture.
"So I don't wanna set up a situation where we're pitting neighbors against neighbors." Harvey said.
Public comment covered a variety of specific concerns from a lack of property line setbacks for commercial activity, to heavy equipment use, to hours of activity, to the number of chickens allowed per acre. Housh acknowledged the potential for conflict, but said the goal of the ordinance is balance.
"You know, we were trying to strike a balance between allowing the farming activities, but also respecting the residential neighborhood and, and just understanding that farms need to do a variety of different things at all different times." Said Housh.
For now, the city promised a public workshop sometime in the next 60 days to allow for greater input from residents.