Plans to build 100 or more “farm stay” bungalows next to the Carlsbad Flower Fields have run into a rototiller of opposition that has property owners rethinking their proposal.
The lodgings would be part of the North 40 Urban Farm, a 43-acre project that took root several years ago along Cannon Road as a way for the property owner, Carltas Co., to expand the seasonal activities of the Flower Fields to a year-round blend of agriculture and marketing.
The city approved the first phase of the project in 2102 with plans for demonstration crops, a winery, breweries, restaurants, a marketplace and floral trade center.
Carltas has already planted 600 olive trees in 12 varieties, 300 blueberry bushes in four varieties, coffee trees, citrus, hops and other perennial crops on the hillside property to lay the groundwork for the project. But it needs something more to tie everything together and assure the project is profitable, said Chris Calkins, president and CEO of Carltas.
“We need to add one more element,” Calkins said. “We’ve got two-thirds of the proposal where we know exactly what we’re going to do. But it’s that last piece. Without that, we can’t finance it.”
Recent marketing studies show the farm-stay idea would be the best way to fill out the project, he said. The preliminary plan calls for 100 to 115 bungalows, each about 450 square feet, built in groups on about 8 acres.
However, city planners opposed adding lodging to the plan. They said the overnight stays would not conform to Proposition D, which Carlsbad voters approved in 2006 to preserve the history of agricultural uses on about 300 acres south of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
The Carlsbad Planning Commission at a meeting Dec. 6 supported the staffers’ recommendation that the bungalows application be denied.
“The way I see it, bungalows are commercial,” said Commissioner Velyn Anderson. “You don’t need to spend the night there to have an agricultural experience.”
Other commissioners said they liked the concept, but Carlsbad was not the place for it.
Overnight farm stays are not unusual in California. The 20-acre Morning Song Farm in Rainbow, near Fallbrook, offers vacations where guests can milk goats, make cheese, churn butter and experience other aspects of small-scale agrarian life.
But several Carlsbad residents at the commission meeting also opposed the idea of overnight lodging at the North 40.
“Not appropriate,” said resident Vickey Syage.”What he (Calkins) wants to do is nothing more than a farm-themed resort … it’s 100 percent against the letter and the spirit of the law of Proposition D.”
Facing so much opposition, Carltas may choose not to take the bungalow plan to the City Council for approval, Calkins said. Instead, the company is looking for something else to round out the North 40 project.
“This idea of bungalows in a farm setting seemed perfect,” he said. “Obviously, not everybody agrees with me.”
Income from the farm stays would support the higher level of maintenance required for an urban farm, Calkins said. It also would make it possible to grow smaller crops, such as truffles, that otherwise would not be commercially viable, and would boost attendance for things such as culinary classes.
“The idea was to get a quick review (from the planning staff) and think about what to do based on that,” he said.
Now the company is trying to decide what to do next, he said.
“This thing depends on a balance,” Calkins said. “We need something that really feels alive.”
He remains confident the overall urban farm project will work, he said, but it may take longer than planned.