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SD Supervisors Hunt For Ways To Compensate Backcountry Land Owners

Audio

Aired 2/10/11

Hundreds of San Diego's back country residents stand to lose their development rights under changes to the County's growth plan. Supervisors are looking for ways to compensate them, but they lack good options.

Hundreds of San Diego's backcountry residents stand to lose their development rights under changes to the county's growth plan. Supervisors are looking for ways to compensate them, but they lack good options.

San Diego supervisors are poised to approve a sweeping growth plan that limits development in the far eastern part of the rural backcountry. It encourages more development in areas like Valley Center, Ramona and Alpine that are closer to established cities.

The Supervisors emphasized that although local community planning groups have a voice in the planning process, the board of supervisors has ultimately authority.

Zoning changes will cause some land owners, many of them farmers, to lose property values. Supervisor Greg Cox wants to find out what the county would have to pay if it offered farmers property tax breaks to keep their land in agriculture.

"I do think agriculture is an important part of San Diego's economy," Cox said, "and whatever we can do to preserve farming, I'd at least like to know what we'd be looking at in loss of property taxes."

A loss of property taxes could affect services countywide.

Another option is for the county to compensate farmers and ranchers for land they could no longer develop under the new county zoning. That could cost $2 million in the first year. But Supervisor Ron Roberts cautioned that potential sources of funding -- like state money -- are not likely to materialize in the near future. He said some of the proposed sources of money are very long shots.

"So it raises a whole series of major questions," he said. "We've got to identify sources of money before we engage in something like that."

County staff say the supervisors have the authority to approve the new plan, even without resolving whether property owners will be compensated.

The board may vote on the new plan the next time they consider it on March 16th.

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