Commercial builders float own initiative

By From page A1 | March 28, 2014

A new ballot initiative that would quash the anti-growth initiatives currently being circulated in the county is now making the rounds in search of signatures.

Sponsored by Region Builders, a Sacramento-based group of commercial builders, architects and engineers, the initiative is called Control Growth to Fix Our Local Roads.

According to Joshua Wood, who is the executive director of Region Builders, the group is made up of 13-14 commercial building trade associations representing 3,000 to 5,000 companies located in a four county area including El Dorado.

Currently there are five different initiatives that have been filed with the county. Four would restrict development with the newest one seeking to override the other four.

If adopted, the Region Builders’ initiative would do a number of things including extending Measure Y through 2025.

Measure Y, which is due to expire in 2018, requires new development to fully fund the cost of improvements to local roads.

The Region Builders’ initiative would require new single-family residential subdivision development projects of five or more parcels to not result in, or worsen, Level of Service F (i.e. gridlock) on Highway 50. However certain roads and highways would be exempted until 2025, including sections of Cambridge Road, Cameron Park Drive, Missouri Flat Road, Pleasant Valley Road, U.S. Highway 50 and State Route 49.

The initiative requires that growth be directed into existing Community Regions and requires the county to provide annual reports on traffic levels and efforts to alleviate congestion. Planning for the widening of U.S. Highway 50 or improvements to state facilities would be a priority and coordinated with other agencies. Inconsistencies between the initiative and the General Plan would be remedied by the General Plan being amended to ensure consistency.

The Region Builders’ initiative would also override any and all voter initiatives or county-sponsored measures aimed at amending the county’s General Plan if it received more votes than competing initiatives. As a backstop, if another initiative received more votes but was later held invalid, the Control Growth Fix Our Local Road initiative would then be given “full force of law.”

Wood agrees the county has traffic issues and thinks Measure Y was needed to fix the roads, which is why his group’s initiative would extend it to 2025. Growth should also stay inside the lines so the county remains rural, he said. “But we’re about smart, intelligent growth,” he said, adding that the county should put more pressure on Caltrans to fix Highway 50 by expanding it. The county should also open its books so the public knows how its road dollars are being spent.

Confident of the initiative, Wood said, “There are a bunch of measures filed, but we know that ours will get on the ballot. And we know that ours will be supported by El Dorado County because we have helped solve the problem.”

According to Wood, Region Builders will use both paid and unpaid signature gatherers. “We will spend whatever we have to get our message out and will systematically prove our case,” he said, adding that Region Builders will be one part of a coalition of broad-based groups that will be advocating on behalf of the initiative. “Others recognize that El Dorado County is a place that has a lot of opportunity.”

Region Builders’ last big political fight was advocating for the downtown Sacramento basketball arena. A fight which they led and won.

Wood said some of the organization’s members live and have built projects in El Dorado County and those people would be recognized in the weeks to come.

However, the latest initiative doesn’t sit well with those circulating opposing initiatives as they see it as an attempted takeover of the county by outside interests.

Bill Center, who is one of those behind an initiative called Fix Highway 50 Traffic First/Keep Us Rural, said Region Builders’ purported goal is to extend Measure Y but its real purpose “appears to be to kill our initiative and any other initiative that’s on the November ballot. From my perspective, it’s people outside the county coming up here and telling us what to do,” he said.

Center, a former member of the El Dorado Board of Supervisors, said the public needs to know the initiative’s “real goal is a poison pill that kills any local citizen effort at having their own voice.” Center said his group’s measure doesn’t extend Measure Y because it has been interpreted and implemented by the county as job-killing TIM (traffic impact mitigation) fees. “Our initiative is very simple, and would allow us to handle the 16,000 parcels that have already been created without making any more,” he said.

Center went on to claim that, “A triumvirate has come together made up of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, the CEDAC (El Dorado County Economic Development Advisory Committee) group and out-of-county developers to quash the local citizens’ attempt to protect the quality of life up here. This initiative would take precedence over any other initiatives on the November ballot if it gets more votes. I am disappointed that people involved with CEDAC and the local chamber see it important to ally themselves with an out-of-county development group to basically quash citizen’s interests.”

Saying he’s very confident they will qualify the initiative for the ballot, Center said the Region Builders’ initiative has “surfaced some divisions in the county we had hoped would go away. We don’t need Sacramento-centric ideas coming up and being applied in El Dorado County. The people supporting the initiative I’m associated with have been in the county a long time and those who want to destroy our quality of life, by and large, live outside of the county. There’s no better example of this than a group coming up here and trying to tell us what to do,” he said.

However representatives of both CEDAC and the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce said Center is wrong. Maryann Argyres, who is the current chair of CEDAC, said she doesn’t know anything about the initiative and it’s not something that’s been discussed at their meetings. Laurel Brent-Bumb, who is the CEO of the Chamber, said they also have nothing to do with the initiative and Center is inaccurate in alleging they do. The initiative has been discussed with a group of citizens, said Brent-Bumb, but “while we don’t like it, no vote has been taken to oppose it.” Brent-Bumb went on to say that she thought it was inappropriate for a Sacramento-based group to put the item on the county’s ballot.

Sue Taylor, who is a party to three of the four anti-development initiatives being circulated in the county, also spoke against the Region Builders’ initiative, saying it advocates for stack-and-pack development within community region lines and would particularly impact Pollock Pines, Camino and Shingle Springs.

“Our initiative is the closest to Measure Y while also limiting the ability of the Board of Supervisors to override gridlocked roads and highways, said Taylor. The Region Builders’ initiative, on the other hand, would allow the board of supervisors, on a 4/5 vote, to add more roads to those allowed at LOS F.

“I also have an issue with a Sacramento company coming in here and cramming this down our throat,” said Taylor, adding that the initiative would allow more residential development, with widening Highway 50 being a priority. “I don’t think that’s where we want to put our road funds.”

Aside from putting money into the initiative, Region Builders also announced this week that it was endorsing Scott McNeil for District 4 Supervisor and had donated $1,000 to his campaign. Wood said they would be announcing other endorsements next week.

Initiative proponents have to gather 7,737 valid signatures in order to qualify for the ballot. An initiative needs 50 percent of the vote plus one in order to pass.

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

Dawn Hodson

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