General Plan Compromises at risk with a 2-2 Vote
on the Board of Supervisors
February 7, 2008
The purpose of this letter is to ask for your financial support to continue our effort to secure a responsible Monterey County General Plan and to protect important and hard-won policy gains.
We need to protect the following enforceable provisions in the current draft language for the Monterey County General Plan, GPU5:
- A specific and responsible cap on further subdivisions in Carmel Valley.
- No further subdivision in the entire North County (non-coastal) Planning Area.
- A provision that absolutely limits subdivision in the area just north of the City of Salinas to Butterfly Village and puts an end to the larger Rancho San Juan Project.
- No further subdivision in most of the Highway 68 Corridor.
- No further subdivision of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes in the Salinas Valley and throughout the entire county.
While these policies fall short of all we hoped to achieve through Measure A, they represent important progress toward the “middle ground" and the compromise the Board of Supervisors promised the voters following the stalemate of the June 2007 election.
The strong policies listed above were included unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in their November 6, 2007 “final direction" to staff in drafting GPU5. In December, however, two of the four supervisors changed their minds. They tried to gut these policies and abandon the compromise by pushing the plan back in the direction of the pro-development GPU4. Thankfully, Supervisors Dave Potter and Lou Calcagno insisted that these strong policies should remain. They also insisted that NO further changes should be made to GPU5 until the Board has the results of the new EIR. With the 4th District Seat currently vacant, the attempt to scuttle compromise failed in a 2 to 2 tie. But these responsible land-use policies are at risk!
The certification of a new EIR and final approval of GPU5 are scheduled for late this summer. If, as now seems likely, the 4th District Seat remains vacant until the June 2008 election, the Board’s 2 to 2 split over GPU5 will be decided by whoever wins the June election – Jane Parker or Ila Mettee McCutchon.
If the current compromise is scuttled and the plan moves back in the direction of the sprawl now – pay later GPU4, LandWatch must be prepared to respond strongly and immediately, both in the courts and potentially by referending the approval of the General Plan.
Even if the plan approved this summer maintains the good policies included in the November 6 direction to staff, there are important improvements to the plan that we must seek.
The following concerns in the current draft of GPU5 need to be addressed:
- The board retained the winery corridor which includes potential for 40 artisan wineries and 10 full-scale wineries. Wineries within the winery corridor would only require a ministerial permit for approval. This would bypass environmental review and public hearings on each winery, which by definition, could include a host of industrial, commercial and visitor-serving uses.
- Vintners also convinced the board to allow cultivation on slopes of 25% or greater with nothing more than a permit. Since 1982, Monterey County has prohibited cultivation on slopes over 25%. This is cause for concern because it could convert to cultivation more than 500,000 acres, much of it important habitat land.
- The board also retained GPU4’s huge expansion of permitted activities defined as “routine and on-going agricultural practices." Under these policies, even some major industrial uses would be included and allowed with no environmental review or public hearing.
- Supervisors retained the GPU4 policy reducing standards of service on county roads from level of service C (LOS C) to level of service D (LOS D). To prevent even further deterioration in county roads and other facilities, Supervisors promised to implement a Capital Funding and Improvement Program (CFIP), including regional development fees, within 18 months of adoption of GPU5. The CFIP is supposed to account for all facilities and services required by growth over the term of the General Plan. Unfortunately there are serious shortcomings in the Supervisors’ capital funding plan. Although they directed staff to update facilities costs annually, Supervisors refused to direct staff to update development fees annually. This leaves the issue of who pays for growth and development unresolved. In addition, Supervisors directed staff to undertake a comprehensive CFIP review every five years, but they refused to specify what they will do about additional growth if major projects become financially infeasible. In other words, the board refused to establish any policies which would prevent further, growth-induced deterioration in public facilities and services.
- The board has also retained Butterfly Village as a “Special Study Area" in GPU5.
Making additional progress on these issues, even with a three vote majority on the Board will not be easy. It will require LandWatch to deploy a team of land use planners and attorneys to fully respond to the new EIR and prepare for possible further litigation. This is, of course, expensive and time-consuming work.
LandWatch Monterey County, with the support of our members, will continue to follow this process every step of the way. We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the final product is the best plan possible. Whether that effort involves further public pressure, litigation, additional referenda, or all of the above, our success will depend on the active support of our members. Please make a generous financial contribution toward that effort today!
Chris Fitz, Executive Director
LandWatch Monterey County
p.s.: Your tax-deductible contribution to LandWatch will help protect our
quality of life by promoting responsible growth in Monterey County, not unbridled suburban sprawl.