Supes' vote likely to downsize two "community regions"

Supes’ vote likely to downsize two “community regions”
By Chris Daley, Mountain Democrat
December 11, 2014 |
Two years of citizen activism may have directly resulted in a reduction of the Community Region boundaries for Shingle Springs and the Green Valley Road corridor. On Dec. 9, El Dorado County Supervisors voted 3-1 to direct staff to review the maps with an eye toward decreasing the levels of future development in areas that remain somewhat to mostly rural. Camino and Pollock Pines are in the process of being reclassified as “rural centers,” and a similar designation is possible for the two west county regions at issue.

Amid the jumble of November’s ballot initiatives and the county’s ongoing Land-Use Policy Programmatic Update (LUPPU) process, movements such as “No San Stino” and “Keep Us Rural,” have targeted supervisors for a perception of them bowing to development interests over the wishes of local residents.

Whether labeled as slow growth or by some as “no growth,” neighborhoods and distinct regions of the county have consolidated into political action groups demanding greater limits on traffic congestion, improved levels of emergency services and restrictions on number and kind, location and density of both single and multi-family residential development projects.

As he has done at other times when Community Region Lines were to be discussed, District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco recused himself on the grounds that any change in the Green Valley Road area lines could impact property he owns adjacent to the current lines. Supervisors Shiva Frentzen, Norma Santiago and Ron Briggs voted for the action. Brian Veerkamp was opposed, preferring to allow the regular General Plan review process to deal with the issue.

By definition, Community Regions are generally described as those areas where residential or commercial infrastructure is in place to accommodate a higher level of development. Public water and sewer are typically the two elements needed to warrant a Community Region classification along with power and transportation capacity.

“Community Regions are a fundamental component of the  General Plan’s planning concept and serve to provide the underlying approach of the General Plan to accommodate growth,” states a letter to the board from Long-Range Planning Division’s principal planner, Shawna Purvines.

Purvines presented a range of issues for supervisors to consider relative to their directions for staff commencing a fairly lengthy process. The first step is for the county to publish a Resolution of Intent describing what is being planned, followed by a period for public comment. According to the Purvines letter, four recommendations describe what Planning Department staff need as part of their marching orders. On paper they read like an ABC for embarking upon any endeavor, but they are not as simplistic as they might appear.

No. 1. “Identify objective(s) for amending Community Region boundary lines.” A list of 11 objectives follows and provides examples, such as preserving natural resources; promoting agriculture; capturing more sales tax revenue; protecting the rural nature of the county; increasing areas for commercial/industrial land use to promote job creation; and promoting infill development/discouraging sprawl. All represent elements contained in the county’s General Plan as objectives to be considered with respect to where and how much land is to be affected by any future development.

No. 2. “Identify specific Community Region boundary line amendment(s) to analyze. Where does the board want to consider expanding, contracting or eliminating the Community Region boundary lines?”

No. 3. “Identify how the project shall be processed. How and when should proposed Community Region amendments be processed — as an independent project, as part of individual community planning efforts, or considered following the completion of the next General Plan five-year review?”

No. 4. “Determine project priority and identify necessary resources to accomplish project objectives and prioritization.” Basically, planning staff are asking supervisors, “How important is this job compared to a number of other important jobs, such as the General Plan biological policy updates or the Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee updates or the Sign Ordinance update?”

In addition to the direction to staff, supervisors approved a budget of up to $150,000 to cover the project and the environmental impact report that is likely to be needed.

Back in February, the board directed planning staff to “begin a countywide review of community region lines to include the potential elimination and/or revisions of community region lines,” the Purvines letter recalls. Since then two significant efforts have been completed that are linked to the Community Region Lines.

Purvines notes that the board adopted a 20-year forecast for new residential units of approximately 1 percent annual growth, and in compliance with the General Plan, 25 percent of the growth is slated for the county’s rural areas while the remaining 75 percent “of the new growth will be in areas where infrastructure such as arterial roadways, public water and public sewer are generally available.” This action occurred April 8.

The second milestone was completion in June of an “annual land inventory” which is required by the General Plan and is part of an annual General Plan review. The inventory describes the lands “currently available to accommodate growth projected in the General Plan,” the document states.

Purvines wrote an e-mail to the Mountain Democrat last Thursday advising that the actual process of redrawing community region lines could take up to about 18 months. She anticipated that the staff work should be done in February, and typically such tasks take about a year from the time the board approves its final, clear description of the project.