Four initiatives aim to halt development

By From page A1 | February 21, 2014

COLLECTING SIGNATURES - Joyce Wilson, of Cameron Park, left, assists Betty Conaty, of Sommerset, center, as she signs two petitions for the "Fix Highway 50 Traffic First and Keep us Rural initiatives as signature collection volunteer, Gary Miller, of Cameron Park looks on at Safeway in Placerville on Feb. 10. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

It’s getting to the point that voters may need a scorecard to keep track of all the initiatives planned for the November ballot.

As of Feb. 5, the El Dorado County Elections Department said four different ones had been filed with them.

The earliest initiative, one called “Fix Highway 50 Traffic First/Keep Us Rural” was filed on Jan. 14. It would require that two policies be added to the General Plan. The first to prohibit the county from approving any single-family housing subdivisions of five or more parcels once traffic on Highway 50 reaches gridlock (Level of Service F – LOS F).  The second policy would prohibit the county from changing land-use designations already in effect or from raising the density on property already designated residential. The policy would not affect the cities of South Lake Tahoe and Placerville or the unincorporated area controlled by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

On Jan. 23, a second initiative titled “Protect Rural Communities — Fix Community Region Line Flaws” was filed. It would amend the 2004 General Plan and change the Community Region designations for the communities of Pollock Pines, Camino, Cedar Grove, Shingle Springs and the Green Valley Road corridor area of El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park.

Advocates of the measure maintain that the “Community Region” classification encourages future General Plan amendments and development of “high-intensity compact urban and suburban-type development” along the Highway 50 corridor, regardless of compatibility with existing community character or underlying land-use designations for medium or low-density residential use. The initiative also states that the Community Region classification of communities along Highway 50 is a formula for “a continuous wall of sprawl endemic to most urban areas in California. It is not consistent with the individualized rural communities that El Dorado County residents treasure.”

On Jan 24, yet another initiative was filed titled “Reinstate Measure Y’s Original Intent — No More Paper Roads.” This initiative seeks to renew a measure that was originally put in place in 1998 when voters enacted the “Control Traffic Congestion Initiative” (Measure Y), which added five policies to the 1996 General Plan. The policies prohibited residential development projects of five or more units that worsened traffic congestion during peak hours; prohibited adding roads that operate at LOS F without voter approval; required developers to pay fees to mitigate traffic impacts of new development; and prohibited county tax revenues from being used to mitigate such impacts without voter approval.

With the measure due to expire, in 2008 the Board of Supervisors put Measure Y on the ballot for renewal with certain modifications including giving the board the right to override LOS F on a 4-to-5 vote. Backers of the new initiative say the county was also using taxpayer funds to facilitate developer-favored projects.

The new initiative, if passed, would amend the 2004 General Plan and would prohibit development projects of five or more units that created or worsened traffic to LOS F during peak hours on any highway, road interchange or intersection. The county would also be prohibited from adding any additional segments of U.S. Highway 50 or any other highways or roads to the county’s list of roads that would be allowed to operate at LOS F without first getting the voters’ approval. All road improvements associated with new developments that would cause LOS F during peak hours would have to be completed before any form of discretionary approval could be given.

County tax revenues could not be used in any way to pay for building road capacity improvements to offset traffic impacts from new development projects. However non-county tax sources could be used to fund road projects if voters first gave their approval.  The county would be prohibited from creating an Infrastructure Financing District unless two-thirds of the voters in that district approved it. Mitigation fees and assessments collected for infrastructure would be required to be applied to the geographic zone from which they were originated. Last, before approval of a residential development project of five or more units, the county would have to make a finding that the project complied with the policies listed in the initiative.

A fourth initiative filed on Jan. 30 describes its purpose as being to “Retain El Dorado County’s Current Zoning.” In the narrative, the initiative complains that, “For over 30 years, developers, real estate brokers, agriculturalists and politicians have wrangled over El Dorado County’s General Plan.” It maintains, “The county is presently in the process of amendments that will increase densities within land-use designations, remove the 30 percent open space rule in dense developments, remove grading restrictions for slopes over 30 percent, and eliminate many other protections that will forever change the rural nature of El Dorado County.”

The initiative goes on to allege that, “the changes (to the General Plan) being processed are to conform to federal and state incentives to promote mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian transportation and to force high-density residential and commercial development along major corridors without taking into account the differences in the established land-use patterns or character of each of our different communities.”

To address these issues, the initiative proposes to turn back the clock so that where land-use designations are inconsistent with current zoning, the land-use designation will be amended to match the existing zoning; different policies governing Agricultural Zone and Timber Protected Zone parcels will be restored to their original language to buffer such properties from future urban-type development; the Mixed Use ordinance would be restored to its original densities and development requirements that were part of the 2004 General Plan; policies within the 2004 General Plan that protect the county’s agricultural, historical, cultural, water and recreational resources would be implemented prior to any future discretionary developments being allowed that would impact those resources; scenic corridor and vista point regulations based on local community participation would be implemented prior to any future discretionary projects being allowed in those areas; and future decisions for zoning changes would be based on a land-use compatibility matrix.

Volunteers are already out collecting signatures to qualify the initiatives for the ballot as were paid signature gatherers. Signing up to put the Jan. 14 initiative on the ballot was Todd Lansberry of Placerville. “It all comes down to population,” he said. “We don’t have the water and we don’t have to economy to push for more.”

Collecting his signature was David Jackson of Placerville who is a paid signature gatherer. “Growth is inevitable,” he said, although he is not in favor of too much population growth too quickly. Saying business was brisk, he estimated he was getting 10 to 15 people an hour to sign the different initiatives he was circulating.

In the meantime, the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce has placed ads encouraging people not to sign the petitions, maintaining that they would undermine local control of planning and economic growth and transfer that power to the state.

Laurel Brent-Bumb, executive director of the chamber, said, “All these petitions and land-use by ballot box is the wrong way to run the county.”

However, local activists like Sue Taylor and Lori Parlin, who are among the backers of many of these petitions, disagree. They maintain the initiatives shift control back to local residents, allowing certain planning objectives to be accomplished in a less expensive and time-consuming manner than if they had to go through county planning.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

Dawn Hodson

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