The search for a sense of “community” sent El Dorado County’s Board of Supervisors down into the weeds of planning and development issues at the BOS meeting May 14. Audience members likewise struggled to understand the difference between Community Identification and Community Design — both of which are deeply embedded in the county’s general plan amendment process.
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Development Services Senior Planner Shawna Purvines presented an update on the Community Identification process and how it relates to the Targeted General Plan Amendment, the Zoning Ordinance Update and the role of the Community Economic Development Advisory Committee. A general definition of “community,” however is an elusive thing, not unlike a definition of beauty.
Within the context of the general plan, Purvines noted six prototypes for areas zoned Mixed Use Development. MUD, in planner speak, is a zone that allows for combinations of single and multi-family residential and a wide range of commercial uses. Towns or regions with a MUD designation are encouraged to develop a specific “sense of place” that recognizes its historical, cultural or environmental uniqueness, and she described the current process as a “tool chest for local design.”
Community ID generally begins with “form and function,” Purvines explained during a phone conversation recently. Her favorite example, she said, is the view east from the intersection of Placerville’s Main Street and Highway 49/Sacramento Street.
The buildings mostly conform in height and are built up to the sidewalk. In general, the height of the buildings is roughly the same width as the street. The “form” has been there for years, and the various uses came later. By contrast, the view down Main Street to the west shows a “use-based” development. For example, a restaurant was proposed and the guidelines for its form came later.
Processes dealing with Community ID include establishing standards and guidelines for the form and function of the area. Community Design takes into account zoning, roads and infrastructure, cultural and historical aspects to be maintained, preserved or protected.
Community ID is being approached from an interested residents perspective with establishment of advisory committees made up of local citizens. The form and structure of those committees is currently being considered, and tension already exists regarding how members will be selected, who will select them and will they join the process with a pre-formed agenda.
Michael Ranalli, a member of the county’s Community Economic Development Advisory Committee, cautioned the board on Tuesday that “the Community ID process is not a panacea and the county cannot afford to not engage before a project comes along.”
Economic development is at the peak of a pyramid of goals and processes built on the foundation of the general plan. It “begins in the community and creates the quality of life of the community,” Ranalli said.
Shingle Springs resident and land use consultant Art Marinaccio has been involved with the general plan and development issues since the late 1970s. In a wide-ranging discussion with the Mountain Democrat on May 16, Marinaccio reiterated what he had told the board on May 14. He explained that the general plan was initially devised as a way to manage development in the El Dorado Hills and west county areas and “to protect the Highway 50 viewshed.”
Deviation from those general goals are “ominous,” Marinaccio said. Projects fitting that profile, that is well off Highway 50, are not being approved or processed and other, available and “sewerable” locations are fairly limited. As a member of numerous committees and commissions over the years, Marinaccio frequently speaks at supervisors meetings and typically plugs information gaps with reviews of the history of “how we got here.” He said the current board “doesn’t get the point or the process of the general plan, something that was years in the making.”
Marinaccio also said he is “very frustrated” that the companion general plan goals, “jobs and moderate housing for the people who will do those jobs” have not been adequately addressed nor planned for. What relatively little housing that has been developed is probably far beyond the reach of the average county wage-earner, he said. People who live in Serrano, for example, “are employers, not people who work for employers.”
The effort toward regulating Community ID is not popular with everyone. Some, such as Maggie Barnes of Pollock Pines, told the board that she was “shocked” by a community visioning meeting held recently in Pollock Pines.
“We like Pollock Pines the way it is. People don’t want it to change or have an agenda forced on them,” Barnes said. “There’s a small group dictating to property owners (and the process) is creating more and more government layers. Normal people are not being heard — only select people.”
Kathleen Newell of Shingle Springs cautioned supervisors to make sure Community ID committees are subject to and organized in accordance with the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act, which provides citizen oversight of elected officials.
Evelyn Veerkamp said “regular people” were being left out of the processes, “feeling disenchanted that there has been no clear intention (by the county) to communicate with regular people. “What are the limitations of the powers of these community committees?” she asked.
Purvines wrapped up her update again explaining that the “Board of Supervisors holds the last word on any project or plan dealing with commercial and multi-family housing developments.”
Board Chairman Ron Briggs closed the discussion saying, “We have to do what’s good for the whole community, not just one or two people.”
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.