Business Alliance...Update, 12-12: Momentum for the “Tudes”
The goal of the November 14, 2012 Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) meeting was multi-faceted, but epitomized in an objective set forth in the 2005 General Plan Economic Development Element, which reads: “…to utilize the Economic Development Providers Network or other Board of Supervisor recognized economic development organizations (i.e. EDAC) to advise and recommend to the Board of Supervisors policies that will facilitate the County’s economic vitality.”
EDAC became the key organization to meet this objective when the Board of Supervisors (BOS) decided to utilize it as their “primary structure” to coordinate and support economic development objectives. Regulatory Reform was formed as a subcommittee of EDAC, with a charge to review and analyze county processes and roadblocks to economic development locally. In their Strategic Direction adopted on May 25, 2010, the BOS determined to do two things that have fueled the EDAC and Regulatory Reform Subcommittee efforts:
- Hold regular workshops to track, monitor and make decisions on General plan processes including Development Services 12 month plan; and
- Continue a collaborative process with EDAC, Development Services Department and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to address regulatory reform issues.
Readers: This is where we are now. We’ve a Board of Supervisors-supported framework for functioning together via EDAC/Regulatory Reform: We’ve a regular time and designated meeting room where we can access county staff input pretty much as needed: We’ve a bunch of “tudes” who’ve built a solid foundation of knowledge: We’ve a group of volunteers from various areas of the community who desire to be involved and keep the process moving forward.
EDAC and Regulatory Reform’s work is not complete, but we know exactly where we are now: We are getting our second wind as we shift from getting county leaders and departments involved, to getting area and neighborhood leaders involved. We’ve identified many areas of need where people can participate, such as: Information Technology, Community Identity, Long Range Planning, Grant Funding and Streamlining Processes.
Information Technology needs: For all the progress made in the area of information technology, there is no local connecting site that brings all local websites/groups together to help the tourist or new resident to find their way around: various logos and websites compete for their attention but not all are easily found. A need has been identified based on review of other areas and how they’ve addressed a coordinated effort for the overall benefit of businesses, services and agencies within the county.
Community Identity needs: Land use consultants, planners and professionals have long experienced a kind of odd phenomenon locally: An inconsistency in how local neighborhoods address a proposed project in their areas. Some have “official” Community Service Districts: Some have only Design Review Committees: Some rely on Zone of Benefit groups or Homeowners’ Associations. Some do nothing – some do all. The county records may indicate a local review committee exists when in reality the group is defunct. The result is that some local areas have sophisticated processes to participate in local planning efforts, while others rely only on the “hear about a project” from word-of-mouth and “show up at the Planning Commission to complain”. This system isn’t fun for anyone and often isn’t very effective in creating better projects. As more areas find their voice (most recently El Dorado/Diamond Springs and Cameron Park/Shingle Springs) many issues can be addressed up front such as: What is the local vision residents are seeking to protect or project? What standards can be set to assure the desired results?
Grant Funding needs: Seeking grant funding to assist El Dorado County in developing its tourism and business base is common in many jurisdictions. It has been suggested that EDC could augment its TOT funds by using some of that money to invest in a good grant writer with a proven record of success. Like it or not there are federal, state and private grants available but it requires an experienced “grant writer” to obtain coveted and competitive grants. Such funds could be used to subsidize many efforts from local community identity efforts to improved information technology systems.
Streamlining Processes needs: Though we’ve come a long way in streamlining our Land Use Policy development processes, we are not finished with the work that needs to be accomplished. Much will take a backseat to the CEQA review process now underway on the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance and Transportation Program updates. However, still to be done is a rewrite / reorganization of the Land Development Manual (LDM). There is also an ongoing need to move forward on “stress testing” of the documents already developed but not yet adopted. This is a process whereby those involved can take a variety of hypothetical projects and “test” them against the new General Plan revisions and the new Zoning Ordinance. Have we solved existing problems? Have we made the process more effective in moving forward and encouraging economic development? Stress tests will be an important validation of work done to date.