El Dorado County District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting fielded questions concerning the county’s General Plan and developing new areas, particularly San Stino, at an on-the-green meeting behind the Cameron Park-Shingle Springs Chamber of Commerce Wednesday evening.
Chamber President Wendell Phillips noted that it was tradition to have town meetings on the lawn and that it was now a goal to have quarterly town meetings. He then introduced Nutting.
The supervisor noted that the county’s General Plan was originally created when Ronald Reagan was governor of California. Since then, it has radically changed, going through several revisions. In the 1960s, zoning was done. In the ’70s and ’80s, “a new generation built up equities, nice pensions,” he said. “People came to enjoy the natural beauty” of the county.
By the mid-’80s, people were leaving places such as Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose for El Dorado County. In 1988, a new General Plan was created. In 1992, about a thousand people showed up at the county fairgrounds for a community meeting. The next year, Nutting was elected. A San Francisco firm was hired and tried to have the county mirror what was being done in Europe — high density pockets with expressways, such as from Cool to Holiday Market.
In 1996, the General Plan was amended and challenged in court. It took three years to work through 22 issues that arose. In 2000, a new Board of Supervisors took the General Plan in a different direction, Nutting said. They started from scratch. Four years later, they had a new General Plan addressing land use and zoning, which were supposed to match each other after a certain amount of time. At nine years old, though, Nutting said the Board of Supervisors is trying to create a new plan. LUPPU — the Land-Use Policy Programmatic Update — is meant to help with this and to keep the plan on target, Nutting said. For example, he aims to keep the San Stino project to one house per 5 acres. Meanwhile, Serrano, done by Parker Development, wants to “hop over the freeway” and there are to be 4,000 units in Marble Valley despite no community region overlay. LUPPU will only deal with prior proposed amendments.
Nutting said he wants to promote agriculture districts — the county has 50,000 acres — for the wine industry and Apple Hill.
He also wanted to look into the Home Occupation Ordinance, which would allow employers to use employees in their home, to “trade in commerce from their homes.” He said that “hundreds, thousands of people work out of their homes, and we need an ordinance to do that.” Right now, those working out of their homes in the county are doing it illegally without the ordinance in place.
On July 30, a Traffic Demand Model will be released, which Nutting said will show what is in LUPPU now. There are already entitled properties, he said, meaning properties that can be bought and have a house built on them. In El Dorado Hills, there are 6,000 units. In Cameron Park and Shingle Springs, 2,000 units. In rural areas of the county, between 3,000 and 5,000 units. The TDM will study the impacts those potential houses will have.
Nutting then told the 50 or so people in the audience that he had taken a position on San Stino — the aforementioned one house per 5 acres. He told the assembled that, with spots on the board up for election soon, they need to “stay involved, know what the process is.” Even if the project “goes away today, it will be back tomorrow.” He noted that a lot of people are not anti-growth, they just want growth that fits in with the area — a sentiment he would repeat multiple times before the end of the meeting.
He mentioned the issue with the billboards on Highway 50, how there was an ongoing dialogue. He fought against one of the billboards specifically as he believed it covered a spectacular view of the Sierra Nevada from the highway. “It takes away why everybody, I believe, came to the county.”
Mercy housing, putting low-income and homeless people in one area “rather than dispersed as it has historically been,” was another project he fought against as it limits mobility in economic status. “It’s not good planning.”
After giving the history and overview of what was happening with the county, Nutting opened the floor to questions from the audience.
When one member asked about San Stino, Nutting reiterated: “I have committed to one house per 5 acres, period.” When asked if he could guarantee his vote instead of just support, he said he would indeed vote, but the planners would be dealing with the people.
He noted that if the General Plan does not go through, threats had been made against land use by right, that a house could built on a property would be threatened.
Another member asked if there could be a cap on improvements, so roads could match growth. Nutting said that Pat Brown had funded infrastructure, including Highway 50, when he was governor; his son, Jerry, the current governor, pulled the funding in favor of social projects during his first term in office and is now dealing with the consequences. Trying to improve the Cameron Park interchange, for instance would be a $75 million-$95 million project — “too much.”
When homes were built, he said, people had to pay for mitigation, which new homes will also have to pay. But some areas, such as Ponderosa Road in the morning during the commute to work while students head to school, could be classified as “F” level service — the worst.
Nutting said that people don’t want change, but projects will happen. He told the audience they need to interface with the board to ensure reasonable growth.
One audience member asked the rest of the audience who was against San Stino; the vast majority raised their hands. He said some people, including himself, had taken multiple days off work to speak with the board, when he could be with his daughter.
“Why are you wasting our time?” he asked.
Nutting responded by asking the audience to give the man applause.
Two other audience members chimed in against the project and the billboards, with the third saying that “Every community member has spoken out against (the billboards).” He said the billboards were voted down, but a few months later were approved. On sober grad night, Ponderosa students say a billboard advertised Bud Light Beer. Nutting said he voted against it, and was willing to spend $1 million in court — even up to the U.S. Supreme Court — to prove the billboards could be voted against.
Questions were fielded for unit numbers in the new areas. Nutting said that there were 20,000 entitled parcels already existing in the county. Grizzly Flat, which was approved in 1960, has 1,100 units — but only has 498 houses built. “It took 53 years to get halfway built out,” he said. “Why add more housing stock?”
Nutting also said the natural resources of the county were being mismanaged, that of the 1.2 million acres in the county, about 500,000 was authorized for using the resources — mostly in the Tahoe basin.
After fielding questions about traffic, one audience member brought up Nutting’s legal matters and how it related to his votes, whether his votes would have to be taken under review.
“Innocent until proven guilty,” Nutting said, noting that the Fair Political Practices Commission of California found no conflict in his votes. “I’m going to be the best supervisor the county has seen,” he said. He said the issue has impacted his family, but he “will be exonerated, the truth will come out.” When asked if he was comfortable voting on the budget because of the legal matters, Nutting said he was.
The final comment was made by Richard Johnson, who noted that, while the people have their property rights, developers have the right to develop. “When Ray says they will come back, that’s the fundamental reason they will come back.” He said the people need to settle the issue now.
Nutting said that he would be holding meetings every week. The next few meetings, each held in a different area of his constituency, would be focusing on fires. A meeting concerning San Stino was set for the next day, with Daniel Iacofano of MIG, an urban planning and design firm.
After the meeting, Nutting said it went “Great. There was good feedback. We need to stay on track with LUPPU” and have no more General Plan amendments other than to address a few specific already existing problems. The Home Occupation Ordinance was also a priority he said. “We’re at the 95 yard line, we can’t stop now.”