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New rule may benefit farmers

After five years, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors is close to approving a rule that would spare farmers from costly fees but still ensure waterways, trees, and certain wildlife are protected from major landscape changes.

The rule would allow farmers to cultivate or irrigate their land without obtaining a grading permit, which costs $450 to $650 and is required if 50 cubic yards of soil is disturbed.

That much soil generally would be involved in a “major change” to an agricultural site, county Supervisor John Spencer said.



“(It would apply) to some kind of a larger operation that would tend to make the neighbors wonder what was going on,” Spencer said.

Although farmers would not need a grading permit for such projects, they would need an exemption that would ensure they prevent erosion and save large oak trees and creeks, said Clint McKinley, director of the building department.




They also would be prohibited from developing the land for five years.

The need for the rule became clear in 2000 when county officials discovered a landowner on agricultural property had disturbed a large area that included steep slopes, a waterway and oak trees.

Since then, the rule has been studied and revised several times.

If the rule is approved, questions about soil disturbance would be decided by the Building Board of Appeals, a board that meets monthly and is appointed by county supervisors.

The exemption is expected to cost less than a grading permit, although fees have not been determined yet, county officials said.

The rule, currently awaiting a few minor changes, will return before the Board of Supervisors in several weeks.


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