LOW DENSITY RESIDENTIAL (LDR) LAND-USE DESIGNATION EXAMINED
“Low Density Residential (LDR)” is a General Plan (GP) land use designation. As such it is a significant piece of an intricate puzzle that forms the land use vision for El Dorado County as set forth in the General Plan (GP). In short, the overriding Plan is to “protect rural agricultural lands while planning for growth in areas that have (or have access to) infrastructure” or, by directing future growth to the Community Regions. LDR is an intricate and significant tool to accomplish these goals. Changing or eliminating this tool/planning concept would have major repercussions to the overall GP. LDR lands are clearly defined in the General Plan, as follows:
Low-Density Residential (LDR): This land use designation establishes areas for single-family residential development in a rural setting. In Rural Regions, this designation shall provide a transition from Community Regions and Rural Centers into the agricultural, timber, and more rural areas of the County and shall be applied to those areas where infrastructure such as arterial roadways, public water, and public sewer are generally not available. This land use designation is also appropriate within Community Regions and Rural Centers where higher density serving infrastructure is not yet available.
The maximum allowable density shall be one dwelling unit per 5.0 acres. Parcel size shall range from 5.0 to 10.0 acres. Within Community Regions and Rural Centers, the LDR designation shall remain in effect until a specific project is proposed that applies the appropriate level of analysis and planning and yields the necessary expansion of infrastructure.
The GP was adopted 2004 and ratified by voters in 2005 after more than ten years in development, millions of dollars spent and lawsuits settled. LDR is clearly not a “new” planning concept; LDR lands have received focused public attention, because several proposed new residential development projects such as San Stino and Dixon Ranch are currently designated LDR. LDR lands may be within the CR boundaries or within more rurally-designated areas.
In reviewing the GP definition for LDR lands, the Plan clearly anticipated that residential development would be proposed and be appropriate on LDR sites. It further anticipated that all infrastructures might not be in place when a development came along. It also defined LDR lands in Community Regions to be appropriate, albeit at densities of one home per 5-10 acre parcels. As with some of the new proposed developments, if the project is proposing higher densities than 5-10 acre parcels, a GPA (General Plan Amendment) process is available and will ultimately require a majority of the Board of Supervisors’ approval.
However newly proposed projects have already attracted opposition as neighbors of the specific projects learned of the possibility that residential development might occur in the Community Regions in which they live – in some cases right next door. But the “process” is in place to individually address each development proposal, and proposed projects should be allowed to submit all the studies and known environmental impacts they discover at the time the projects are judged by the BOS.
To stop these projects prior to the completion of the specific GPA project review process and BOS hearing, some members of the public are requesting that LDR lands be removed from Community Regions (CRs), citing the fact that the “current GP inventory projections are adequate”. The GP inventory is currently under analysis as part of the TGPA-ZOU EIR. We caution against any action that could make a widespread and far-reaching impact on the fine balance of policies and goals contained in the GP. There would be significant impacts to the entire county - and in particular to the rural lands and agricultural areas - that the GP land uses seek to meld together and protect. It makes more sense to allow the established process to evolve and judge each project on its own merits, studies and findings, rather than to make short-sighted changes to the entire county’s land-use planning roadmap.