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Forecast for El Dorado Hills community development

By From page A1 | February 20, 2013

Six sprawling specific plans were approved between 1987 and 1998, covering nearly 10,000 acres of El Dorado Hills. Those plans locked in development rights for an estimated 14,000 homes that would come to define El Dorado Hills far more than the villages envisioned by Alan Linsey and Victor Gruen in the late 1950s.

Most of the new homes had yet to be built when the 2004 General Plan was fought over and eventually approved. One of the most contentious issues was the forecast for 32,000 new homes in the county by 2025, including those in the existing specific plans. Most of the new homes would be “accommodated,” in planning parlance, in El Dorado Hills.

Jim Brunello of EDAC predicted that the latest growth projections, due in the next 30 days, will show slower residential demand than the 2004 forecasts, pushing the planning horizon to 2035 or beyond.

Rural areas, by contrast, would likely show greater demand than the 2004 forecast.

The forecasts are important because, in theory at least, the board should use them to drive large land-use decisions, he said, and community councils will want to be involved in the discussion. The councils will also address road policy. Brunello mentioned Green Valley Road, where hundreds of new homes are currently proposed with no planned widening of what locals claim has become a congested and dangerous east-west transportation artery.

“If you want to be involved you better get there early,” Brunello said.

“If my proposal benefits the community; if I have the interest and support of other councils, then I stand a much better chance (of approval),” he continued, explaining the role of councils when developers come knocking. “And if my project meets the community standards, my chances are even better. That’s what we’re proposing. Most developers would prefer the strictest standards over trying to guess what the community wants.”

EID Director Alan Day called the CDAC model “a good way to find commonality with other groups and gain synergy.”

Local real estate specialist and EDAC volunteer Steve Ferry organized last week’s meeting on behalf of the Tea Party Patriots of El Dorado Hills, but made it clear that the Tea Party has no desire to be a community group or even the facilitator.

El Dorado Hills resident Noah Briel is a mixed-use advocate and long-standing EDAC volunteer. “It’s working now,” he said of the CDAC process. “The question is can we take it down to the community level, rather than just have people like Gordon (Helm) and Steve (Ferry) and me up there representing all of you. I’m a good guy, but I’m not you and I don’t share all your concerns.”

The following night Senior Planner Shawna Purvines appeared at the regular monthly Area Planning Advisory Committee meeting and delivered a tight summary of the Land Use Policy Programmatic Update, aka LUPPU, which is the vehicle for the land use and regulatory reform measures currently under environmental review.

Despite the enthusiastic meeting the prior night, her audience was little more than a dozen APAC regulars.

Purvines took the CDAC model one step down, explaining how local councils can formalize a vision by agreeing on their community’s defining qualities, for example: “What makes you Bass Lake Hills?”

Those goals will be expanded into community design standards and a community plan which, in the short term, would have to be consistent with the General Plan and zoning, but longer term could suggest zoning changes or even land use designation changes.

She warned that each council must represent a cross-section of the community, and encouraged the inclusion of land owners.

Purvines said she’s done it before, and the resulting plans created trust and support between the community and supervisors. She promised outcomes that better reflect the will of the community.

The process is not well-suited to conventional meetings, which could drag on for months, she said. High speed facilitated meetings work better, Purvines explained, promising tools and personal assistance to drive the creation of a community plan quickly.

“You want to get plugged into the board sooner rather than later,” she said.

El Dorado Hills residents must first define their councils. Neighborhoods such as Bass Lake Hills, which have yet to build out, are a natural fit for the process, said Purvines.

Residents of older, built-out neighborhoods where residential design standards are less an issue might band together.

She offered large maps of El Dorado Hills, suitable for working out council boundaries, but said someone or some group needs to host the council formation process.

A core group of El Dorado Hills leaders were also set to meet on Feb. 18 to discuss the best way to launch the process locally.

Mike Roberts

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