Big Bend Community Land Trust
Evolving Visions and Ideas:
Our purpose is to responsibly steward the BBCLT farm property in the Madesi Valley and use it as a catalyst to help the Big Bend community in a variety of ways. The non-profit organization intends to practice and demonstrate permaculture principles on the farm, while educating and training participants about the these techniques, and providing nutrition in a regenerative farm environment. We are working to support the sustainable growth of the local economy of Big Bend and the Madesi Valley through producing organic foods, providing employment, residential housing, and other cultural projects.
Ideas for the Continued Evolution of the BBCLT:
Here are some visionary ideas from community members, including current and former BBCLT Directors:
1. Develop a General Plan for the farm that can be used as a template for other small communities
2. Continue to Grow Food for community distribution, including expanding the use of the garden, orchard, and pastures for producing organic vegetables, fruits, and livestock.
3. Build Community Facilities such as “The Hub” and other structures will include spaces for small local services and businesses (such as community thrift store, public library, food bank, commercial kitchen/dining facility, delivery and package store, computer tech & web services, wifi hot spot, café, etc.)
4. Host The School of Ordinary Skills (SOS), organizing classes, workshops, and internships, led and taught by local and visiting teachers and mentors in useful skills, such as organic gardening and farming, cooking and preserving food, wildcrafting plants and fungi, land stewardship, local biology, wood working, ceramics and firing, metal works and forging, working with tools, music lessons, rope knots & rigging, computer skills, etc.
5. Build Housing for Caretakers and Local Tenants, providing quality living space for residents of Big Bend, including BBCLT staff and people to watch over and care for the facilities and the farm.
6. Seek and Establish On-Going & Stable Funding, including selling services and goods produced on the farm, renting facility spaces for community use, and public and private grants and donations.
How the BBCLT Land Can Be Used:
The Big Bend “Rural Community Center” and an
Explanation of the Shasta County Zoning and Master Plan:
Big Bend is unincorporated, so the County planners made it a “Rural Community Center” (RCC) for their (county-wide) zoning and land use Master Plan. The Big Bend RCC is a square, made up of four sections (a section is a specific 640 acre square, so the BB RCC is 2560 acres!). But more than half of the BB RCC is already zoned “Timberland” (TL) or “Timber Production” (TP), and locked up in the hands of the clear-cutters. These lands are very difficult to change zoning because the TL and TP zones are geared towards maintaining timber producing land as timber producing land. There is an option to get a “Less Than Three Acre Conversion” permit, allowing a caretaker family to live on TL or TP land and homestead a three acre area, leaving the rest of the land in timber production.
The Shasta County Planning Division map below shows the Big Bend RCC, with the Timber Lands (TL and TP) are shaded Green, the MU zoned area is Pink, and the RA zoning is shaded Yellow:
So, the land that is easily useable (for things other than growing timber) that is contained within the BB RCC is actually WAY smaller than 2560 acres, since the areas of the “Community Center” (meaning our unincorporated town) that are slated for farming, residences, stores and restaurants, bed and breakfasts, lodging, businesses etc. make up a little more than one fourth (25%) of the whole RCC! These areas of the RCC are mostly currently zoned “Unclassified” (U), but they are each slated planned to eventually be changed to specific zoning, which is activated to replace the U zoning, when any development on a parcel is proposed. Most of the BB non-timber RCC “Unclassified” zoned parcels are slated to become “Rural Residential” (RR, or formerly called RA) zoning. This includes the properties known as The Shire, The BBCLT, and most in-town parcels, all the way to the western edge of the RCC. There is also a strip of “Mixed Use” (MU) zoning designation, mostly right along Big Bend Road, in the center of town (Big Bend’s “Main Street”). *The very limited but crucial and versatile MU zoning is discussed below, further down this page…
The RR zoning seems to be a good fit for many of the CLT goals and the goals of BB residents. RR zones allow each parcel to have two legal residences, and to farm and raise livestock, and to sell agricultural products grown on the premises. That sounds good, but it gets even better… Could BBCLT open a Community Space, with a Café, Coffee Shop, or a Restaurant on the farm parcel? (See below for discussion of answer)…
Looking Back: Celebrating the Good Old “Taste of Home” Cafe in Downtown Big Bend (formerly in the heart of Big Bend’s tiny MU-Zone)…
In the fine print describing the allowances permitted within the BBCLT farm’s RR zoning, it also allows uses that are “similar in character and impact” to the listed “Permitted Uses” and/or the “Use Permit Uses” list. So, it appears that many ideas and dreams for BBCLT possibilities can likely come true, within the current zoning allowances. The lists of “Permitted Uses” and of “Use-Permit Uses” allow a variety of uses that the BBCLT can show are “similar in character and impact” to many community needs that the Board of Directors might request future permitting for.
For example, at first glance (without a zone change), it appears that the current BBCLT farm property zoning might not allow a restaurant or a café on the property. BUT, upon closer examination, some uses are allowed, that are indeed quite “similar in character and impact” to a small restaurant or café. Here are some of the “Permitted Uses” and the “Use Permit Uses” listed by Shasta County… Some of these uses are “similar in character and impact” to a small restaurant or an internet coffee shop, etc.!
RR Zone “Permitted Uses” and “Use Permit Uses”:
Two Residences, Farming, Livestock, Farm Product Sales, Group Foster Home, Church, Dog Kennel, Large Animal Vet, Golf Course, Wholesale Nursery or Greenhouse, Commercial Riding Stables, Pet Cemetery, Small Winery, Logging Contractor’s Yard.
It appears that these allowed services and businesses are “similar in character and impact” to a restaurant or a café and other examples of rural community uses that meet the needs of Big Bend. In fact, several of the listed acceptable uses would likely have their own cafeteria, dining facilities, and that seems to be similar in character and impact to a small restaurant. So, we believe with the “similar in character and impact” allowance, the BBCLT will be able to do whatever is ideal for the land and the community. Positive Vision!!
The other zone overlay in town: MU –
MU Zone “Permitted Uses” and “Use Permit Uses”:
Just up the road from (and almost touching) the BBCLT property, the BB RCC and County Master Plan also designates a very small “Mixed Use” (MU) Zone area in the “Downtown” strip of BB. It consists of several parcels on “Main Street”, running from Indian Springs School (ISS) to the Pit Stop Store, Trailer Park, part of the cabin rental cluster, locally known as “The Ghetto”, the “Wendell’s Place” parcel, and the old “Taste of Home” café spot. This MU Zone allows various types of permits, but the long list includes residential units, small-scale farming, and almost any commercial use you could think of, as long as it’s low impact, non polluting, etc. With a “Use Permit”, the MU zone even allows all kinds of low-impact businesses, such as stores, restaurants, hotels, auto service station, bowling alley, church, warehouse, car dealership, kennel, winery, theater, and more…
General Visions: The BBCLT’s initial project goals for this incredible site are to protect the special property, while uplifting the community of the Madesi Valley, reducing poverty & needs, supporting residents, providing some jobs and affordable housing, produce a wealth of farm-raised food, offer educational programs, and to work to become a community-improvement/empowerment showpiece for the town and the region. This farm has already become a small haven of bio-diversity and food production that will eventually attract many more participants and visitors, while creating an economic force in the community, providing a variety of useful and needed jobs, services, and facilities to continue to improve our community.
Future Options: The Shasta County Planning Commission seems to have the best of intentions for local rural communities to evolve and grow into more functional, safe, and productive zones, so we believe that they will approve good plans that help the land and the residents. The system appears to allow for zoning changes and special use permits that will help communities, like the Big Bend RCC, manifest changes and growth that are beneficial to the local residents and the County in general. Shasta County and our Planning Commission are our allies in improving the development and quality of life in Shasta County, and they care about finding ways to work with tax-paying landowners and entities to make such improvements happen.
The BBCLT is a unique and well-positioned project that will evolve into an even more significant non-profit institution to serve the needs of this unique and isolated town, as Big Bend evolves, improves, and grows. With the right proposals and support, the BBCLT can achieve our goals with the blessings of the Shasta County Planning Commission. The County Planning, Building, and Environmental Health Divisions, that manage the actual zoning and development are also crucial and important allies, who wish the best for our community and RCC.
We believe that there are two different possible ways to do what the BBCLT wishes for our community:
1. Obtain the appropriate RR Permits for “Permitted Uses” and/or special “Use-Permit Uses” to create the infrastructure and uses that the community so desperately needs.
2. Apply for a zone change for the farm, from the current RR zone to be added onto the adjacent MU zone, which has a wider variety of both “Permitted Uses” and/or special “Use-Permit Uses” to create the infrastructure and uses that the community so desperately needs. (*We don’t know if the County would allow such a zone change, or not)
With these options, and the caring collaborative help of the Shasta County Planning Commission (along with the Planning, Building, and Environmental Health Divisions), it’s likely that the BBCLT can get both permits and funding to manifest our goals! Never underestimate the power of a positive vision.