by Leanna M. Sweha
Visitors to the Cannery website will read the following about the urban farm:
“The Cannery will provide the homes, restaurants and local neighbors with fresh seasonal produce through its own working 7.4 acre working farm. The Cannery Farm will serve as a state-of-the-art example of sustainable urban farming and as an agri-classroom for students and beginning farmers.”
The urban farm is arguably the central theme of the Cannery. Today, in part one of this article, we will take a closer look at The New Home Company’s build-out and financing of the farm. In part two, we will look at the plans for the Center for Land Based Learning to lease and operate the farm.
The farm will be located along the eastern edge of the development, forming a buffer and agricultural transition zone. According to the Development Agreement between the City and The New Home Company (TNHC), TNHC will construct the farm features and then dedicate the property with the improvements to the City. The City will then lease the property to the Center for Land Based Learning as the farm operator.
The farm is one of the public improvements that TNHC has proposed to finance with the CFD approved on February 17 by the City Council. The City Staff Report on the Cannery CFD estimates the cost of the urban farm at $3.2 million.
As you drive past the Cannery site, you can see the main farm building – “the barn” – going up at the entrance to the Cannery, northeast of the intersection of E. Covell Blvd. and J Street .
The barn will provide a farm office, storage and processing area. According to officials at TNHC, the 5,800-sf barn structure includes a 3,585-sf barn and 2,288-sf mezzanine, porch and veranda. An accessory structure will be located adjacent to the barn and will be approximately 1,500 sf. Construction of the barn began in January 2015, and was the first building at the Cannery to begin construction, ahead of the first model homes and consistent with the requirements of the development agreement.
The development agreement requires TNCH to complete the following:
-Agricultural well, with filter system, pressure and storage tank.
-Irrigation system for production fields.
-Accessory structure for equipment storage, composting area, and 600-sf greenhouse next to the barn.
-Improvement of the production fields so that the soils will be of high quality
-Hedgerows along the east and west edges of the farm, emphasizing native plants to support beneficial insects.
TNHC will also build a farmhouse at the northern end of the farm parcel to be used as a sales and marketing office during build-out. After all sales are completed, TNHC will dedicate the farmhouse to the City. The farmhouse is described in more detail in TNHC’s Statement Regarding Proposal to Form Cannery CFD:
“This 1,644-sf building also includes a 1,836-sf covered porch and will be an iconic building enjoyed by City residents for generations as future meeting space in North Davis. TNHC has worked in good faith with City staff to ensure the building will serve the City well, and further included a 1.5 kW photovoltaic system to offset electricity loads for the farmhouse resulting in energy cost savings consistent with the City’s and The Cannery sustainability goals.”
In its CFD Statement, TNHC further indicates: “TNHC is prepared to start construction on these facilities in January 2015 to bring this much anticipated community amenity to the City well ahead of the first residents far earlier than required. The project conditions of approval would allow for Cannery Farm to come on at the end of the neighborhood build-out with the barn and accessory building to be the last buildings to be built rather than the first.”
TNHC officials clarified the above: “For Cannery Farm to be operational, all farm facilities need to be complete and ready for use. The New Home Company’s intent is to construct a fully operational farm, inclusive of completing all farm buildings in the initial phase of development far earlier than required by project conditions of approval of the Development Agreement.”
At the February 17 City Council meeting, staff noted that it was not clear whether the law allows CFD financing for improvements that will be leased to a private third party (in this case, the Center for Land Based Learning). Staff will research this question further and report back to the Council. However, the amount of CDF financing, estimated at $12 million, is much less than the estimated $18 million in public improvements under the project. Therefore, TNHC could cover the farm and the CFD funds could be directed to other components.
Leanna M Sweha, JD, has been a resident of Davis for 20 years. As a young molecular biologist in a USDA lab working to engineer Roundup-resistant corn, she grew interested in sustainable agriculture. Fascinated with the legal and policy issues of agricultural genetics, she became an attorney specializing in agricultural and natural resources law. She has worked for the California Resources Agency and the UC Davis Office of Research.