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Encinitas mayoral candidates stake their plots on urban farming issue

Candidates in Encinitas’ first race for mayor each see agriculture as an integral part of the city, and as the city’s Urban Agriculture Subcommittee works to create an ordinance that speaks to urban farming, differences of opinion have taken root among the candidates.

fidel-alex-2014-colorCandidate Alex Fidel is on one side of the issue, saying that agriculture is a freedom, not a right that should be handed out by the government.

“I think we should be able to plant seed wherever we want as long as we’re not infringing on others’ property,” Fidel said.

Mike BawanyIn contrast, candidate Mike Bawany brings up the issue of proper zoning. He said the city should be mindful of the zoning permits it is granting and that it should not infringe on the urban farms to begin with. He promotes the idea that urban farms should stay in the “rural part of Encinitas.”

During the 1980s, many cities began to move away from local agriculture in favor of large supermarket boxed goods, but with a reemerging interest in locally sourced heirloom and heritage products, Encinitas has been pushed into structuring legal ordinances for urban agriculture and deciding a balance between those who want to grow locally and those who may find it a nuisance.

Tony KranzMayoral candidate and current Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz is a part of the Urban Agriculture Subcommittee and is working with Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer to create an ordinance that will be beneficial to those who want to farm locally yet considerate of the neighbors who are concerned with noise and traffic.

“Essentially (it’s) a complete rewrite of the laws,” Kranz said.

Kristin GasparWhile candidate and current Mayor Kristin Gaspar has not yet seen the reports from the subcommittee, she said she is keeping an open mind and is optimistic that an equally beneficial ordnance can be created.

“We need to be mindful of the consequences and make sure that any decisions we are making balance all interests,” Gaspar said.

Each candidate said that agricultural is important to Encinitas and its residents.

“Agriculture is in the roots of Encinitas,” Gaspar said. “It’s something that most people would say they would like to protect and preserve in our community.”

The beginning structure of that balance will be presented at the Oct. 15 City Council meeting, where Kranz and Shaffer will present their talking points.

“If we are mindful of the changes we are making and have some control over the activities, then it’s a win-win for all parties,” Gaspar said.

As more residents are beguiled by the ability to purchase locally grown heirloom and heritage products in their neighborhoods, more complaints by people who don’t want extra traffic on their streets are expected to filter through the city.

“One of the challenges that we have in Encinitas is to figure out ways to be good neighbors,” Kranz said. “We have a bunch of really good people who live here, so if we focus on making sure we are sensitive to the situation with our neighbors it will be just fine.”

Candidate Sheila S. Cameron was not available for comment by this report’s deadline.

Gisela Lagos is a San Diego freelance writer

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Encinitas mayoral candidates stake their plots on urban farming issue