Concise Review of Key Zoning Ordinance Update issues
KathyeRussell, The Business Alliance, June 18, 2012As the Land Use Policy Programmatic Update (LUPPU) process moves forward, the public is becoming more informed about it. It is without doubt a very involved process with many tentacles reaching into many areas of El Dorado County (EDC). For those who have an interest it takes a great deal of time and commitment to comprehend the details of each issue under discussion. Understandably the majority of people simply want to know if and how changes may impact them. Thus it is timely to review the history of the Regulatory Reform effort that prompted proposed changes the public is now becoming more fully aware of.
The Board of Supervisors (BOS) created a standing Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) based on direction/ language in the 2004 General Plan (GP) Economic Development Element. Members of EDAC individually applied to serve and were appointed by Supervisors to review policies and regulations to improve the local economic climate. As EDAC considerednumerous issues impacting efforts to retain business or attract economic development to EDC, they quickly realized that some county policies and land use processes were causing a significant obstruction to enhancing the local jobs base. Business representatives and individuals addressed EDAC with concerns about onerous, expensive and often undefined processes that constrained local firms’ growth or relocation to EDC. Private property owners also came forward with the same message. These concerns warranted in-depth research beyond EDAC’s once-a-month meetings. So EDAC created the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee (Reg Reform) by which volunteers could study details of the county’s regulations and processes.
“Reg Reform” is an amorphous group of individual volunteers that stepped forward to help. Several hundred individuals have come to discuss their business and individual needs. Community activists also attend to discuss their fears and concerns. Individuals attending have represented agriculture, rural areas outside of agricultural, industrial and commercial lands, landowners within Community Regions and Rural Centers, individuals with specific interests such as fire safety, traffic management, rafting, logging, biking, hiking, education, camping, recreation, ranching, farming, vintners, business owners from the Georgetown Divide and Cameron Park, home-based business owners, members of existing and newly forming Community Design Committees such as Camino, Cool, Diamond Spring, El Dorado and Cameron Park. The list is extensive and all these volunteers contributed to the changes ultimately adopted by the BOS as Resolutions of Intent (ROI) for changes to local land use regulations.
At Reg Reform meetings all were welcomed to the forum and were advised regarding how to participate in the fledgling effort to bring change; Come to Reg Reform meetings for verbal input, and/or preferably, document concerns in writing so others could digest their concerns as options for future recommendations. County staff also attended meetings and engaged in dialog every Friday morning. Both sides of issues were vetted and discussed and, when consensus was achieved, a united position was promoted: Without consensus different positions were included for “optional analysis” within the LUPPU process of review. Where disagreement remained, all participants recognized the BOS would make the final decision after reviewing the analysis including as-needed environmental analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The process evolved into public presentations before the Agricultural Commission, the Planning Commission, community groups, special interest groups, agencies and the Board of Supervisors during the last several years. Votes were taken and ongoing direction was given. The result of this input and interaction is the LUPPU process we have today. Clearly many people have invested in this process although others are just learning of it. Recently some members of the public cited concerns about changes under consideration – preferring “no change” to the existing Zoning Ordinance. However, no change is not an option: The adopted General Plan is EDC’s long-range land use planning guide: The Zoning Ordinance is the regulatory tool to implement the General Plan: Consistency of the Zoning Ordinance and the General Plan is mandated by state law! Consultants will provide an analysis of impacts of the changes proposed.
To date the LUPPU process has succeeded and survived due to an open process of vetting issues, a willingness of volunteers to work cooperatively, and the participation by county staff and elected/appointed leaders. Contrary to some public claims - individual projects were never promoted or discussed in Reg Reform meetings, except as a means of demonstrating issues or how processes work.
It is disheartening to many individuals who have participated in the extensive time-consuming research for years, to learn that some members of the public who recently got involved, would discredit the process, or worse, lobbed personal attacks on individual participants. Such tactics are sometimes driven by political ambition; sometimes by fear; sometimes by a lack of education about issues or the process in general.
For those who have committed their time and energy to promoting positive economic change, a fundamental truth survives all efforts to discredit their work: A belief that participating in the process is a choice, that discussion of issues requires selfeducation about the details of those issues; and that individual responsibility for self-education is critical to comprehend any complex process.
Below we complete our concise review of key issues contained in the Zoning Ordinance Update (ZOU).
Issue: Increase potential uses to provide additional agricultural support, recreation, home occupation, and other rural residential and tourist serving and rural commercial uses on zones in the Rural Region. The Rural Regions (RR) are defined as all the lands NOT in a Community Region (CR) or Rural Center (RC). RR lands include somewhere around 300,000 acres in El Dorado County (EDC). The CEQA analysis requested herein will consider the impacts of allowing increased uses (as noted above) on rural lands as appropriate.
Issue: Create standards (master plans) for mixed use and Traditional Neighborhood Design development to provide for a streamlined approval process and to protect the commercial viability of the site. The goal of this issue is to provide for a set of master plans, or pre-approved designs, that each community (such as Camino, Diamond Springs, Cameron Park, etc) approves of within their respective areas. It will streamline the development process if a developer opts to use the pre-approved standards, while allowing the developer to submit different plans but go through the established (not streamlined) process. The goal is to provide design standards within design concept areas that comply with each community’s vision. This doesn’t eliminatethe Planned Development application process, but simply offers an additional process option that is already approved by the community.
Issue: Include single family detached development standards in the Multi-Family zone. Allow up to 15% of the project area for commercial uses as part of a mixed use development in multifamily zones. This issue provides for mixed-use, design strategies within CRs/RCs. It will allow single family homes to be built/sold on a separate lot (compared to current provisions for only apartments/condos). Reg Reform research showed most people prefer single family homes to apartments and condo development to meet requirements to provide higher density/workforce and senior/rental housing, in appropriate areas.
Issue: Provide opportunities for residential and recreational uses on Timber Production Zone land compatible with timber management and harvesting. Landowners from resource production areas asked the county to analyze the impacts of allowing additional uses that are compatible with timber production on their TPZ zoned land. Many other counties allow at least one residence to be built on a TPZ parcel – often 160 acres or larger, as well as some commercial uses. EDC currently allows a home on TPZ-zoned timberland only if it is necessary to the production of timber (which may be hard to justify). Historically, forests have allowed various uses in timber production areas, including recreation such as: trails, stables, campgrounds, lodges, boating, skiing, snow parks, off road vehicles, etc.
Issue: Provide multiple industrial zones and additional commercial zones to specify and direct the type, design and location of industrial and commercial uses. An analysis of this issue will consider the impacts of allowing industrial and commercial zoning within Rural Regions – not only in CRs/RCs.
Issue: Provide alternative means to implementing the 30% open space requirement as part of a Planned Development to provide more flexibility and incentives for infill development and focus on active recreation in Community Regions (CR) and Rural Centers (RC). This issue was brought forward due to confusion and conflicts over requiring open space as part of a project, such as an infill subdivision. Testimony was given at Planning Commission and Board meetings stating that small areas of unmaintained residential open space tends to become weed lots detrimental to property owners and creating potential fire hazards threatening entire neighborhoods. This policy allows flexibility and incentives for “infill” projects (new developments within existing developed or partially developed areas) to be established for recreational uses such as active parks, picnic areas, ball fields, etc.
Issue: Amend Zoning map to include historical overlay on El Dorado and Diamond Springs in relationship to historical town sites consistent with adopted General Plan and Zoning Ordinance policies. An analysis is required to evaluate community areas which residents desire to have designated as historical overlay areas for implementation of design standards. It was requested by several design review committees and residents.
Issue: Codify Interim guidelines for Wetland/Riparian setbacks. Currently Wetland/Riparian Setbacks are set forth as “Interim (temporary) Guidelines” with direction to formalize setbacks in the Zoning Ordinance. This analysis will consider setback options, with a BOS decision to ultimately codify within the Zoning Ordinance.
Issue: Zoning Map Update Options: Will analyze mapping direction for Multiple Commercial/Mixed-Use and Industrial zones to specific areas; Provides alternative zoning for Rural Region (RR) lands designated as Low Density Residential (LDR) or lands rolled out of Williamson Act Contracts that are zoned Exclusive Agriculture (AE), and; Alternative zoning criteria for RR lands designated Rural Residential, since these lands are “wobblers” that can accommodate either agricultural and/or residential zoning. Consideration would be given to the “opt in” process, whereby existing agricultural zoning would be maintained unless the land owner “opts” for a different allowable zoning.
Reg Reform participants remain open to all views. County staff, department heads, appointed and elected officials also have shown their desire to hear from all affected by changes proposed in the LUPPU process. For details on each rail of the LUPPU process, go to: http://www.edcgov.us/landuseupdate/
Business Alliance…Update June 15, 2012 The Business Alliance…Update is a bi-monthly publication of the El Dorado Business Alliance (BA). The BA is made up of the following organizations: El Dorado Builders’ Exchange, El Dorado County Association of Realtors (EDCAR), El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, North State Building Industry Association (NSBIA) and Shingle Springs-Cameron Park Chamber of Commerce. Web Address for Subscription Info: KathyeRussell@gmail.com“Developing Mutual Support on Community-Wide Issues”