Accepting the recommendation of its Long-Range Planning Division, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors on April 8 adopted a new set of projections for how and where future growth will occur.
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The board approved “Scenario 3,” which combines the “historical growth rate with growth distribution that is consistent with the county’s General Plan.” Such forecasts are required to form the basis for preparation of the county’s Capital Improvement Program and for updating the Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee program. CIP and TIM are further subject to annual updates and “major” updates every five years.
The issue had been continued from Feb. 24 when three scenarios were presented to the board. At that time members of the public and supervisors complained that the comparisons between each scenario had led to confusing if not skewed results. Representatives of the Measure Y Committee and Rural Communities United were particularly chagrined by the way the data were developed and presented.
Staff was directed to meet with those organizations and rework their methodology so as to be “comparing apples to apples.” Each set of projections was based on a number of assumptions regarding the rate of growth, distribution of future residential growth throughout the county and a ratio of residential growth to employment growth. The selected scenario projects a growth pattern of 75 percent in the Community Regions and more urban areas while 25 percent is expected to move into Rural Regions. All options generally were tweaked to use the figure of 17,500 units, representing about 1 percent annual increases for their residential growth forecast.
A Regional Housing Needs Assessment prepared by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments establishes guidelines for the numbers of moderate- to lower-value units on land designated for multi-family residential development. The county’s General Plan includes a “housing element” that further details how and where the “affordable” housing will be distributed.
Long-Range Planning Division engineer Claudia Wade gave supervisors a slide presentation showing the anticipated long-range benefits of choosing Scenario 3. First, it implements the General Plan and objectives that have been identified by the board; next, it “protects and preserves agriculture and rural areas;” third, the scenario is expected to “maximize existing infrastructure and services;” and lastly it “maintains consistency between the county’s General Plan and the CIP.”
Objectives identified by the current as well as previous boards include creation of jobs. The adopted scenario calls for a 1:1 ratio between new residential units and jobs. Another goal is reducing what’s called “sales tax leakage,” that is revenue from county residents who otherwise go “down the hill” to purchase goods and services. Reducing constraints to moderate housing is another goal, and finally, the scenario aims at preserving and protecting agriculture and natural resources.
As presented by Wade and other planning staff, the 20-year projections adopted show 10,000 single-family residential units and 3,000 multi-family units in the county’s Community Regions. Single-family residences in Rural Regions are projected at 4,100, while about 300 multi-family units are anticipated for the same areas. The numbers are approximate and designed to fit the projection of 17,500 units over the time period.
Estimated costs for the ongoing Capital Improvement Program (“rough, ballpark figures” in planning jargon) are approximately $406.5 million between now and 2035 with a potential overrun of about $81.5 million “for things that might be needed.”
Don Van Dyke with the Green Valley Road Alliance challenged some of the figures. “Scenario 3 assumes 4,000 homes that have not been approved,” Van Dyke said. “If the building doesn’t happen, we end up overbuilding infrastructure or building it in the wrong place.”
Retired county engineer Kris Payne said, “You can see there’s a significant choice we have to make. The bottom line is making sure the numbers are explainable and there’s a political significance in the choices. For today, I support Scenario 3, but when Don Van Dyke says the numbers are different, we need to have a clear understanding of what they mean.”
Supervisor Ron Briggs also praised the Green Valley activist. “I respect what Don Van Dyke says. He does his homework. Are there safeguards in place (to avoid such a scenario)?”
Board Chairman Norma Santiago reminded supervisors and the public that the board was looking at Scenario 3 “as a starting point. We need to start somewhere,” she said.
Supervisor Ray Nutting called the choice for Scenario 3 “the only logical choice, building along the (Highway 50) corridor. I don’t understand the problem. We are mostly rural … We have enough inventory (available parcels). It’s not rocket science. We still have 75/25 and we can adjust it as needed.”
Supervisor Ron Mikulaco pointed out that county policies are consistent with Scenario 3 in that they accommodate growth and business.
Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the Scenario 3 as the official 20-year growth projection.