Local attorney Jim Brunello looked like a rumpled Uncle Sam last week as he pointed a figurative index finger at a room full of community leaders and delivered the message: “El Dorado Hills needs you.”
A student of county land use dating back to the 1960s, Brunello has led the Economic Development Advisory Committee for the past three-and-a-half years, and was in El Dorado Hills to encourage the formation of local councils to guide land-use decisions in their communities.
“People who wanted or didn’t want things made appointments with supervisors and made their case one on one,” he said. “They still do. Until now it’s all been decided in the back room.”
Brunello was at the library in El Dorado Hills last week with EDAC volunteers, encouraging local leaders to help pull the decisions that shape their community out of the back room and make land-use planning less reactionary.
The front door opened in December when the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors combined the county planning, transportation and environmental departments into one large Community Development Agency, headed by Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kim Kerr.
Local councils will formalize their community’s vision into a plan that can be used to shape policy and evaluate project proposals. The councils will be self-selecting, and can represent a geographic area or a special interest group.
The additional responsibility and the resulting outreach into the communities marks the transition of EDAC from economic development and regulatory reform into community development. EDAC becomes CDAC.
Councils have already formed in Camino, Placerville, Shingle Springs, Diamond Springs/El Dorado and Cool, where residents have long held a shared identity and sought greater representation in county governance.
But will mainstream El Dorado Hills residents buy in? The process will require hours of prime time meetings.
History doesn’t bode well for such councils in El Dorado Hills, where residents have typically gotten involved in land use matters only when personally affected and then only to oppose a proposed project, be it more homes, stores, offices or roads. Even schools and parks face stiff opposition in the neighborhoods they serve.
Brunello played on the community’s pervasive truculence. “There are things going on that will affect you,” he said. “They’ll affect everyone. Organize and be heard.”
District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco was on hand last week. He recently named Marshall Medical Center Executive T. Abraham to a second EDAC term.
Abraham told community leaders that the current supervisors face far-reaching decisions in the next three years, and the new agency lets a “council of communities plug into the board and be heard as never before.”
“It’s just a question of do we want to organize … and be a part of this, or have other people determine our future,” Abraham said.