El Dorado County’s Land Use Policy Programmatic Update
Business Alliance Update, April 1, 2012
GP Issues Reporting El Dorado County’s Land Use Policy Programmatic Update (LUPPU) continues moving forward. The county has wrapped up its’ first round of public input workshops. Attendance was disappointing from some perspectives although expected to pickup in the next round. Slowly people are beginning to hear the details and gain a greater understanding of the LUPPU details, especially as the details impact their own property.
“The Letter”: As we previously reported, a great deal of confusion surrounded the EDC Planning Department’s original letter, directed to specific land use/zoning categories, so it will be further clarified by a follow-up letter due very soon. The letters address a process whereby some landowners (depending on their current General Plan (GP) land use and existing zoning) will have the ability to express their desire to “opt in” to agricultural zoning, or not. Not all land uses qualify – though as reported previously the RR (Rural Residential) land use provides for both residential and agricultural uses. The LUPPU Environmental Impact Report process will analyze all options and all input from property owners, which provides information to fine tune the analysis.
For example: Some property within general planned RR land use areas was originally zoned for an agricultural use, consistent with active Williamson Act contracts. Yet some of these parcels have since rolled out of contract. Thus the decision must be made, with input from property owners, how to zone the land now? No longer being under the Williamson Act may indicate a change from agricultural status, but some property owners still desire ag zoning. Additionally, the current process allows the property to be zoned as either residential (RE) or the new Rural Lands (RL) zone. Thus the letter seeks input regarding the current owners’ desires and intentions for the site. The prior response date given in Letter 1, wherein property owners were given a very short time in which to respond to the county, is also being extended via Letter 2 – along with additional direction as to how the public can access critical zoning information.
Notification of map errors requested: County staff is also mapping land uses and zoning to provide the public and decision-makers (Board of Supervisors) with a visual of land use impacts. This is a very long and intense process with the EDC Surveyors’ Department taking the lead. As volunteers have worked with staff to produce new maps, some errors have been discovered.
For example: Originally the current site of the Union Mine High School located on Koki Lane in El Dorado, was zoned as agricultural land. Following the completion of the high school, with the land no longer appropriate for agricultural zoning, the parcel was never changed to the more appropriate “public facilities” zone. This error was discovered when agricultural buffers were being required for an adjacent site to develop, leading to the absurdity of enforcing General Plan-directed agricultural buffers for a developed high school site. This matter will be corrected in the LUPPU process.
Others lands may have gone through a zone change process that for whatever reasons have not been corrected on the land use maps. This is a good time to rectify such mapping errors.
The county is accepting written information from property owners on any known errors (e.g.: NOT land use desires for changes) that may have been carried forward inadvertently on land use maps. If such errors are known, it is requested a letter be sent to the EDC Planning Department, requesting review and correction. Be sure to include your contact information, site location, Assessors’ Parcel Number(s) and a brief description of known errors. All contact information is available on the EDC website. Go to TGPA-ZOU@edcgov.us with questions or write to the EDC Planning Dept, 2850 Fair Lane Court, Placerville, CA 95667. Reference “LUPPU Map Correction Request”.
Discussion of proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance.
Noise Element: Supervisors will consider revisions to current noise standards to establish attainable thresholds for nighttime construction activities.
Conservation and Open Space Element: Supervisors are considering amending restrictions on development on slopes of 30% or more, within Community Regions (CR) and Rural Centers (RC) and will consider setting standards that would be in the Zoning and Grading Ordinances. This modification recognizes the concept that GP policies should be “general” with more specific details more appropriately addressed in county ordinances. The fundamental change under consideration is based on the General Plan vision to preserve agricultural and rural lands in EDC. The CR and RC areas were identified to provide areas where higher density growth could be accommodated and promoted instead of pushing those higher-density projects into the rural areas. These are currently lands with access to sewer, public water and major transportation corridors. The countywide GP policy that protects all 30% and greater slopes, ignores the fact that most of EDC, by virtue of its location in the foothills, contains slopes, and protecting all within designated urban areas is misplaced. The result of this policy on CR and RC lands has been protection of slopes with no benefit. Erosion is successfully addressed in various county regulations as is open space. Protecting non-beneficial lands from development, in the very areas slated for development, results in a faster absorption of appropriate lands in urban areas, while increasing the need for more high density lands in rural areas.
Agriculture and Forest Element: Under consideration is a change in GP policy to provide a limited buffer for lands within the Community Regions by adding language in the General Plan that would bring the forest resources and agricultural lands buffering policies into line with one another. Supervisors will also consider amending the GP to eliminate the need to obtain a Special Use Permit (SUP) for visitor- serving uses, and instead consider establishing standards, to be included in the Zoning Ordinance, that would be permitted. Regulatory Reform members have supported this effort as the SUP process can be very time intensive and costly, compared to predetermining standards. This recommendation is part of the initial goal to refine and streamline costly processes to the public.
Finally, Supervisors have supported analyzing changes in policy that would allow ranch marketing activities to occur on grazing lands. The goal is to “put the ‘ranch’ back into ‘ranch’ marketing.” Currently the ranch marketing ordinance only applies to agriculturally zoned lands: all other zones would require a Special Use Permit to do anything, whereas the proposed change would allow people to do some activities "by right" if they have ag zoned land. The change will stimulate tourism and rural commerce on a wider base of land.
High-Density Residential Policy Change: Within the LUPPU process Supervisors have directed the EIR analysis to include the effects of increasing High Density Residential (HDR) land use from a maximum of 5 units per acre to a maximum of 8 units per acre. This is being done for analysis purposes only. NO CHANGE is anticipated during this amendment cycle. The analysis would provide information related to future options the Board may want to consider for housing for all income levels by providing higher densities within Community Regions (again, areas with access to public sewer, water and transportation services such as buses, as well as other dense population-serving components including jobs).
Although possibly controversial, it is necessary for EDC to adhere to state laws which impact local land uses. This analysis is consistent with the General Plan vision, while seeking options that may reduce production costs that drive up the overall cost of housing. Again, it is not anticipated to be amended at this time. The analysis will help inform a longer term housing forecast for the County. Regulatory Reform members have promoted development options that would create pleasing, well designed, clustered homes, with each Community Region and Rural Center having the ability to develop their own design standards. Thus the public would have input upfront as to how their community “looks” and developers would have the benefit of knowing upfront what the community expects. These options are widely accepted for single family homes compared to building apartment units to serve lower income citizens.