Zoning Administrator allows fish limit exemption for Aqualand Farms

The county’s Zoning Administrator granted Aqualand Farms an exemption from the limit of allowed specialty animals.

The August 15 decision by Zoning Administrator Joe Farace will allow the eventual aquaponics facility to have up to 8,400 fish. The property’s “J” animal designator limited the parcel in the 2100 block of Warmlands Avenue to 25 animals.

“The findings can be made,” Farace said.

The required findings included consistency with the county’s General Plan, the Bonsall Community Plan, the county’s Zoning Ordinance, and other applicable county regulations. Farace also made environmental findings that the project was categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review and that plans and documentation for the project demonstrate compliance with the county’s watershed protection, stormwater management, and discharge control ordinance requirements.

The 3.5-acre parcel currently has a single-family dwelling, a guest house, and a greenhouse as well as citrus trees. Owners Bradley Rogers and Kelly Tyler also grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers which are certified as organic. The property has Rural Residential zoning and a Semi-Rural Residential land use designation.

The aquaponics operation will be housed within the existing greenhouse. “The greenhouse structures, they are by-right uses,” Farace said. “The size and location would normally be allowed.”

“By-right” means that no discretionary permits are needed. Ministerial permits such as building and grading permits are still required. On December 4, 2012, the property was cited for a code violation because the greenhouse had not been permitted and had been built over the reserve leach field. On December 21 Aqualand Farms submitted plans to the county’s Department of Environmental Health to relocate the property’s reserve septic system. Building plans for the 17,208 square foot greenhouse were submitted to the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services on April 5, 2013, and a building permit was issued on April 28. The issuance of the building permit resolved the code compliance issue while also addressing what would become a project issue.

“The external fan noise was addressed as part of the building permit process,” Farace said.

The closed-loop aquaponics system, which transports fish by-products to the plants for nutrients while recirculating the cleaned water back to the fish, is comprised of 28 tanks with a capacity of 800 gallons apiece. Each tank can hold 300 fish. Concerns from neighbors included the noise from the exhaust fans used for the greenhouse and from the water and air circulating pumps for the fish tanks. An eight foot high by eight foot wide solid wall was constructed as a noise barrier for the exhaust fans and makes the project compliant with the county’s Noise Ordinance. The water and air circulation pumps utilize 1/8 horsepower, and during a site visit county staff confirmed that noise is not detectable at a distance of ten feet. The greenhouse is located in the middle of the 3.5-acre parcel.

The June 4 meeting of the Bonsall Sponsor Group included a unanimous recommendation for approval contingent upon resolution of odor issues. Neighbors can contact code compliance should violations occur, and a July 6 open house apparently resolved issues with concerned neighbors.

Aqualand Farms will use tilapia for its aquaponics system. The fish and vegetables will be transported off the property to market on a bi-weekly basis or as needed.

The traffic generated from the transport operations is not expected to exceed an average daily volume of 12 vehicles. “It’s consistent with any residential or ag use,” Farace said.

Commercial nurseries currently exist to the south and to the west of the Aqualand Farms property.

The operation does not require additional site grading, changes to the exterior of the greenhouse, or expansion of the building footprint. A small emergency generator will be added.

“Something that needs to be done,” Rogers said.

Rogers doesn’t yet have a timeframe for the completion of the aquaponics system. “We’re about halfway into it,” he said.

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