Proposed Land Use Changes may invalidate the entire General Plan
We continually include these reviews to remind our readers (and ourselves!) that a firm and comprehensive foundation was laid a few years back to implement the 2004 General Plan (GP). It may appear to some this has been a random evolve-as-you-go effort, and for a few issues that have since surfaced - that may be true. The County found it necessary to remain flexible as new issues arose during this public process. But the overall implementation effort was a concerted, strategic one that began in 2011 when the public gained support from the El Dorado County (EDC) Board of Supervisors (BOS) to strategically implement the adopted 2004 General Plan (GP). They made this decision following public testimony from many sectors of the community that demonstrated the negative effects of EDC’s failure to fully implement the GP or to develop a Zoning Ordinance consistent with it.
The fundamental goal has been the creation of a process to fully implement the 2004 General Plan which was ratified by voters in 2005. The GP contains many overriding issues, assumptions, processes, programs and projections that depend on each other, and that must be in compliance with various local regulations as well as new and existing state and federal laws and regulations without changing the underlying GP land use.
There are currently some efforts afoot that would now change the adopted GP land uses and whether or not those changes are made ultimately will depend on BOS decisions based on the environmental review currently in process. However, those who have worked on this process consistently understood from the beginning that changing land uses, the very foundation for the GP that enabled EDC to “keep it rural” while also accommodating growth and business within Community Regions (CR) and Rural Centers (RC), would be like throwing a firecracker into a crowded theater. Land use changes of any magnitude have always been controversial in EDC and could have unintended consequences in the fine balance established within the GP. The soon-to-be released EIR should provide more information as to what those consequences might be.
IN THE BEGINNING….
In 2011, following the BOS decision to actively implement the 2004 General Plan, the BOS adopted Resolutions of Intention (ROIs) to identify goals. The ROIs identified four key areas that were lacking in meeting expectations set within the GP as follows: (1) A proportionate jobs-to-housing ratio; (2) Protection and promotion of Rural Lands, Rural Commerce, Agriculture and Natural Resources; (3) Increase county revenues by stemming the loss of sales tax revenues (e.g. “sales tax leakage”) and (4) Development of housing to meet the needs of moderate-income-earners.
Next the process addressed key issues that had been identified as “problem areas” (based on numerous white papers submitted to the BOS, working groups’ input and public testimony) that were: (1) hindering the creation of local jobs, (2) failing to protect and promote EDC’s Rural, Ag and Natural Resource Lands, (3) failing to stem the loss of tax revenues, and (4) failing to produce local housing for moderate-income-earners. The areas identified as “problematic” included Fire Regulations/Application; Lack of a current Zoning Ordinance that was consistent with the GP; Outdated and ineffective road design standards (Highway Design Manual [HDM]) that addressed Caltrans/ State and local design needs; a non-existent Land Development Manual (LDM); an archaic and/or non-existent process for local community design standards that included options for Mixed Use Development (MUD); Outdated or conflicting and over-bearing local grading regulations; and a process whereby the General Plan policies could be mitigated.
As each of these important issues was identified and underwent public discussion with the BOS, they were accepted as negatively impacting the General Plan goals and objectives when examined under the light of the four identified ROI areas, and the remedial work process known as “LUPPU” picked up speed.
HIGH PRIORITY ISSUES
As the above work was underway several programs rose to the surface that crossed the boundaries of work-to-playto-home with strong public interest: traffic and community planning. Traffic knows no work/play boundaries and clearly impacts most if not all GP implementation issues. Likewise local communities (predominantly those on the west slope between Camino/Pollock Pines and El Dorado Hills) each have their own unique character, with homes and businesses both contributing to, and funding some, solutions to traffic. We will address current traffic changes and issues in the next Business Alliance…Update.
The EDC Economic Development Division has contracted with AIM Consulting, Inc. to: complete an inventory of existing studies, reports and surveys related to community planning efforts; meet with stakeholders from each community; and develop a gap analysis and community visioning report template for community use. Long Range Planning staff continues to work with different communities as needed on community meetings and projects. Next steps include establishing a process and procedures for community planning.
As conceptualized and endorsed by the BOS, Phase 1 of Community Design involves a joint effort of the BOS and volunteers. The concept envisions adoption of a Community Design format to address Commercial (C) and Multi-Family Residential (MFR) land within the specific Community Region (CR) and Rural Center (RC) boundaries included in the GP (thus the earlier decision to avoid changing land use designations). Both “C” and “MFR” land use designations are General Planned to accommodate higher densities within the CR and RC boundaries, where necessary infrastructure such as public sewer, water and improved roadways are available. The areas outside these boundaries are dedicated, though not exclusively, to Lower Density Residential (LDR), Rural Lands (RL), Agriculture (A), Natural Resources (NR), and/or Recreation (R). Although there is a significant amount of variation in this formula, the key GP vision rests in planning predominantly for growth within the Community Region and Rural Center areas, enabling the county to retain much of the rest of the county’s lands in rural land uses.
After the Community Design format is created by each community/area a committee would be appointed by the BOS with volunteers’ input. The Committee would be charged with establishing appropriate boundaries for the community plan including C and MFR sites that would include a provision for Mixed Use Development (MUD) projects ideally sited in and/or around towns’ centers. Each community would be considering many factors specific to their area such as historical buildings and restoration/preservation; business and land owners’ goals and plans; environmental triggers such as streams/creeks; funding for preservation and/or guideline development efforts, etc, etc. The goal would be a community-based vision of how C and MFR projects can plan projects that adhere to each community’s goals by having standards developed in advance of projects being proposed. Form-Based (picture/photo driven aides are encouraged) Guidelines could be the ultimate result.
LONG RANGE PLANNING DEPT UPDATE
On December 3, 2013 the Long Range Planning Department provided the Board of Supervisors (BOS) with an update on various projects now underway.
Targeted General Plan Amendments (TGPA) and Zoning Ordinance (ZO): The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the TGPA and new ZO is still expected to be completed this winter as the necessary information from the Travel Demand Model (TDM) is still pending. Additional comments were received from Caltrans relating to a request to include onramp information that necessitated a delay in the release of the EIR. Also, based on public feedback and the extent of information requested, traffic consultants are now conducting additional traffic model runs to provide more detailed information. In order to capture the majority of the concerns heard to date, staff chose to provide supplemental information for the analysis now, thereby creating a shift in the timeframe for the preparation of the EIR, anticipated to be released in February 2014.
We applaud staff for their diligence in addressing public concerns up front. In this situation we believe it’s a good decision to cover issues as thoroughly as possible up front, particularly concerning transportation issues, rather than to fail to include or address “new” technically-based traffic questions and concerns, as part of the environmental analysis. The threat of yet another traffic/growth initiative in El Dorado County is real and requires extensive, thorough analysis as early in the process as possible. Staff has also taken to heart the desire of community reformers for “transparency”: having information discussed available to the public in the “front room” versus back room dealmaking common in many political arenas. Staff accomplishes this by making recent transportation meeting minutes between El Dorado County/Department of Transportation leaders/staff and Caltrans available to the public online.
Next Issue: Updates: Additional county projects underway; a comprehensive review of current transportation projects and more…
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”