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Rio Linda
Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Smart Planning Solutions lead to a Way Forward for Hickory Hank’s

Rio Linda’s beloved, longtime local barbecue joint, Hickory Hank’s, has come under fire recently from Sacramento County for operating the restaurant from a parcel that is not zoned for commercial business.

Today the Rio Linda Messenger has learned that a solution is near that resolves the issue not only for Hickory Hank’s, but for other agri-tourism type businesses throughout Sacramento County.

In 1998, Rio Linda was overwhelmingly clear about the need to protect our semi-rural, agricultural/residential lifestyle. Since then, Sacramento County has had an ag-res preservation policy in place for Rio Linda/Elverta. Sacramento County Planning has largely recommended denial for any businesses who want to operate in those parcels zoned agricultural. 

Hickory Hank’s has been operating contrary to County code for a very long time, without the County’s knowledge. The original application was for a “Bed-and-Breakfast”. However, planning found out that Hickory Hanks was actually a restaurant, which was a very clear violation of the ag-res preservation policy.

This is how the problem came about.

Even with the overwhelming community support, it’s difficult to find a path forward without compromising the ag-res preservation policy’s intent, which not only affects Rio Linda but all of Sacramento County. This isn’t just a problem in Rio Linda. As supervisor Don Nottoli will tell you, it also has to do with the Delta area which has similar protections.

While it is clear that Hickory Hank’s is something the community wants, it’s difficult to avoid setting a precedent and clear the way for businesses the community doesn’t want, or to create a policy that would allow building in places the community doesn’t want.

According to Matt Hedges at Sue Frost’s office, The solution that has been found is to update the agritourism/small rural commercial uses and standards to allow for businesses like Hanks to be able to operate in the ag preservation zones.

This would include things like:

  • Small event/conference centers
  • Sit down restaurants
  • Small wineries
  • Bed and breakfasts
Supervisor Sue Frost

This will allow Hank and other small, non-chain type businesses to continue to operate.

The real rub here is that there is a planning backlog, and this initiative goes to the back of the queue. 

An effort to solve that issue comes from Supervisors Sue Frost and Don Nottoli at next week’s Board meeting. They will officially request this policy to be worked on, and that it be prioritized over several other items already in process. There will still be some highly critical items that must get worked on first, but Hickory Hanks will advance in the queue quite a ways.

This requires a lot of work and could take up to 12 months to accomplish.  In an effort to speed this timeline up, Economic Development may be fingered to provide funds to pay for a private planner to work on this project specifically due to the economic impacts this could have for the entire County.

Hickory Hank’s representative is happy with this plan.  Timing is an issue for them but they remain hopeful at the direction the County is headed. 

This would take the cost of the fix from roughly $50,000, down to a very small fraction of that cost.

It’s rare for situations like this, but with some smart planning and some hard work from those in Sue Frost’s office, this looks like a win/win for everyone. Especially for barbecue lovers in Rio Linda.

Messenger Staffhttp://www.RioLindaMessenger.com
The Rio Linda Messenger is the Local, Independent, Online News website for Rio Linda, Elverta, North Highlands, Natomas, Antelope, and the rest of Northern Sacramento County.

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