By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

Fall in Napa ValleySonoma County officials are considering allowing landowners who lost their homes in wildfires last month to live temporarily on agricultural properties. The fires destroyed nearly 7,000 structures in the area, most of them homes.

A 1965 state law restricts certain farmlands from development. But members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors are faced with a severe impact on the region’s housing stock, which was already in short supply before the most destructive fires in recorded California history burned about 5 percent of the area’s homes. They’ve already agreed on a moratorium for new vacation rental permits and to allow housing in temporary locations such as RVs, pool houses and overnight parking spots.

They now are looking to expand that list to include properties covered by the California Land Conservation Act, known more commonly as the Williamson Act. The law allows farmers to pay less property taxes if they agree to keep their land used for agriculture and open space.

Board members will also consider an ordinance allowing agricultural property owners to rent out their existing dwellings to fire victims, as long as this doesn’t displace farmworkers or other agriculture employees. These temporary farmland housing rules would remain in effect through 2019.

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(Photo by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.)