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Ben Lomond Wallflower
Ben Lomond Wallflower

Mount Hermon June Beetle
Mount Hermon June Beetle

Silverleaf Manzanita
Silverleaf Manzanita

Band-winged Grasshopper
Band-winged Grasshopper

Ben Lomond Spineflower
Ben Lomond Spineflower

Ben Lomond buckwheat
Ben Lomond buckwheat
Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank


Another Local Real Property Issue The Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank

By Lloyd Williams, Association Attorney

The Zayante Sandhills, marine deposits of sandy soil supporting unique communities of plants and animals, covers a portion of the County, including a portion of the City of Scotts Valley, and is the home of several state and federally listed endangered species and two special plants (Mount Herman June Beetle, Zayante Band Winged Grasshopper, Santa Cruz Wallflower, Ben Lomond Spineflower, Silverleaf Manzanita and the Ben Lomond Buckwheat). Until 2008, many property owners were restricted in developing their property, even adding a bedroom or other improvement, due to the inclusion of their property within this designated area and the requirement of the County and the City of Scotts Valley of on-site mitigation measures. Permits were difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. In 2008, the Board of Supervisors and the City of Scotts Valley approved the use of “off-site” mitigation measures through the payment of Conservation Credits to an approved Conservation Bank to satisfy mitigation requirements.

What is a Conservation Bank?
A Conservation Bank is a parcel of land containing natural resources that are conserved and managed in perpetuity by a responsible entity for a list of specified species and used to offset impacts on the same species occurring elsewhere. Funding to help support Conservation Bank land is received, in part, from the payment of Conservation Credits – the bank’s currency. The Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank is a private land bank managed by PCO, LLC and designed to preserve, enhance, and restore key parcels of Sandhills habitat in Santa Cruz County. Currently, there is one property in Ben Lomond, consisting of 22.78 acres, that is the Preserve. Landowners conducting development projects in the Sandhills can purchase Conservation Credits to compensate for their project impacts on the Sandhills’ endangered species as described in a Habitat Conservation Plan. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the Federal Endangered Species Act, is responsible for approving Conservation Banks as well as the Habitat Conservation Plans in which Conservation Credits are used to mitigate project impacts.

Where Can Conservation Credits Be Used?
In Santa Cruz County, Conservation Credits can be used for mitigation measures only if the proposed project is located within the areas identified in the County’s Interim Programmatic Habitat Conservation Plan (IPHCP). These areas include several parcels in the Scotts Valley area along Graham Hill Road, Whispering Pines, Mt. Hermon Road, Bean Creek, Scotts Valley Drive, Lockhart Gulch Road, Green Valley Road, East Zayante and West Zayante; and several parcels in the Ben Lomond area located along Glen Arbor Road, Brookside Avenue, Newell Creek Road, and Highway 9.

What Are the Requirements?
The 2008 Operating Agreement between the County and PCO, LLC, the administrator of the Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank, authorizes the County Planning Department to accept Conservation Credits as mitigation measures pursuant to the County’s Sensitive Habitat Protection Ordinance – as long as the proposed project meets certain eligibility requirements. The proposed project must be a) residential in nature; b) located on parcels no larger than 1.5 acres in size; and c) involve no more than 15,000 square feet of total ground disturbance on a single parcel. The project must also incorporate appropriate minimization measures to avoid or reduce impacts to the habitat. The use of Conservation Credits is restricted by the County because it does not want the Conservation Bank to be used to prompt or justify intensification of development in the Sandhills. As a result, larger development proposals and other projects that do not meet the criteria listed above were excluded from the Operating Agreement, and require separate Board approval to use Conservation Credits to mitigate project impacts. If the property is located within the City of Scotts Valley, the property owner should check with the City to determine its requirements and limitations regarding development within the Sandhills area located within the City limits.

How Do Conservation Credits Work?
In Santa Cruz County, Conservation Credits are sold in square foot units. The current price of a Conservation Credit is $7.50 per square foot of Sandhills habitat disturbed. Thus, a small residential addition resulting in 500 square feet of disturbance would pay $3,750. The fee for construction of a new single family residence that disturbed an area of 5,000 square feet would be $37,500. Fee adjustments are tied to the consumer price index.

Site Assessment Qualified Biologists:

Entomological Consulting Services, Ltd.
104 Mountain View Court
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523-2188
Richard A. Arnold, Ph.D.
Phone: 925-825-3784

Jodi M. McGraw, Ph.D.
Population and Community Ecologist
PO Box 883
Boulder Creek, CA 95006
Phone: (831) 338-1990

More Information:

  • How To Permit Projects in the Sandhills

  • Do you Live in the Sandhills? (Service Area)

  • Submit your property information

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