Growth issue strikes a nerve
By Sarah Lunsford
The board chamber was filled to overflowing on
Monday afternoon when Calaveras County supervisors held a study session on
land-use planning and the possibility of a comprehensive general plan
“I think it’s tremendous,” said Supervisor
Bill Claudino in reference to the crowd that came out for the study
Robert Sellman, interim director of
planning, pointed out that basic tools need to be in place in the planning
department before the county tackles a general plan update.
“Ours is a field that literally changes annually,” said Sellman.
Sellman told the board that his department’s processes can
be divided into three areas, maintenance, current planning and advanced
Maintenance tasks are those that primarily
include administration and training in the department.
Current planning involves the processing of applications as well as
keeping up with California Environmental Quality Act requirements, building
permit review, annual mining inspections and processing environmental impact
Advanced planning includes items such as
the state required oak woodlands preservation and the implementation of a
grading ordinance that was requested by the 1996 general plan review, among
other tasks which need to be addressed in a more urgent manner because of state
requirements that have changed in the past 10 years.
The department is currently two employees short with an ever-increasing
workload, Sellman said.
A comprehensive general plan
update is not required by state law, but there is the requirement that local
governments look at their general plans every 10 years to determine if a
comprehensive update is in order.
Of the seven
elements in a general plan, only one, the housing element, has a state
requirement to be updated. Ordinances have been updated through the years, but
have not been implemented or are still in the process of completion.
The zoning element review began more than three years ago
and is still in the process of being completed because of agricultural zoning
issues that needed to be addressed before the process could be completed.
A land-use element was changed in 1998 to reflect the
reality of community centers in the District 2 areas of Glencoe, Rail Road Flat
and West Point and has yet to be
The growth of the county and the issues
it has raised regarding the types of developments that are being built, traffic
circulation issues, and other factors, are those that are considered in
determining if a comprehensive general plan update is needed.
The county has allowed single-family residential building
to take place in virtually every zoning designation in the county with the
exception of industrial, Sellman said. This has caused a problem with affordable
housing issues as well as the practical issues of trying to mix single-family
housing developments with multiple-unit housing developments.
Sellman told the board that the Planning Department staff
recommends a comprehensive general plan review but does not have the staffing
levels or resources to accomplish the task, which could take many years to
A general plan update also could cost the
county a minimum of $800,000. Nearby, Amador County has just contracted with a
consultant to update its general plan at a cost of $1 million.
“Obviously, the mood of the public is for a comprehensive
general plan (update),” Supervisor Claudino said.
Claudino pointed out that the biggest problem with an undertaking like
that of a comprehensive general plan update is that there is currently not
enough staff in the Planning Department and that there is a funding issue
involved with the update.
“I think they’re saying to
the board that the community is concerned about growth,” Merita Callaway said in
reference to the crowd.
Callaway pointed to the
comprehensiveness of the crowd, with every corner of the county being
represented in the audience.
Bob Dean, a Calaveras
County Water District director, spoke to the board from his own perspective and
that of a fellow elected official.
Dean pointed out
that the members of elected bodies have a stewardship responsibility to those
people whom they represent.
The inadequacy of the
general plan could cost the county its water allocations, Dean told the
Dean not only addressed the possible loss of
water allocations because of an inadequate general plan, he also pointed out
that there is no ordinance in the county that addresses the protection of the
historic resources of the area which he said needed to be addressed.
“I’m not saying we stop growth,” said Dean. “I’m saying we
need to address our past.”
The general consensus of
those who spoke to the board was that there needs to be a comprehensive plan for
the entire county to address the issues associated with growth.
Connie Williams, co-chair of the Lake Tulloch Alliance, a
300-member group in the Lake
Tulloch area that includes members from
County side of the lake,
referred to the need to stop the “Band-Aid” solutions to the growth in the
Seana Hogan one of the founders of
myvalleysprings.com, a Web site that began two months ago that gives community
members a forum to express their opinions on growth and other issues, said that
the group is not anti-growth.
“People are agreeing
we need to come together as a community,” said Hogan who pointed out multiple
issues, such as traffic and water, that need to be addressed.
Contact Sarah Lunsford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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