Community Meeting on the General Plan

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Introduction

This report summarizes the presentations and discussions which occurred at a community meeting entitled “The General Plan Update”, held by Supervisor Jane Parker on Sunday, April 18, 2010, from 3-5 p.m.  Supervisor Parker and her staff will be seeking opportunities to implement the suggestions which were generated by participants at this event.  This report will be posted online at www.janeparker.org

 

The Community Forum brought together nearly 30 people to discuss the status of the general plan update process, and issues regarding the latest draft which is referred to as GPU 5.

 

Presentation on County Environmental Initiatives

Participants were provided a copy of the introduction to the General Plan, which explains that California state law requires each city and county to adopt “a comprehensive, long-term general plan for the physical development of the county or city, and any land outside its boundaries which bears relation to its planning” (Government Code section 65300). As described by the State Office of Planning and Research, “the general plan expresses the community’s development goals and embodies public policy relative to the distribution of future land uses, both public and private” (State of California General Plan Guidelines, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, 2003). The policies of a general plan underlie most land use decisions. The county’s zoning ordinance and any specific plans are required to be consistent with the general plan. In addition, subdivisions, development projects, capital improvements, development agreements, and many other land use actions must conform to a County’s adopted general plan.

 

The County’s general plan does not cover the 12 cities in Monterey County.  Cities adopt their own general plans.  Additionally, most aspects of the General Plan do not apply to the coastal zone, which is subject to a separate planning process.  The coastal zone plans will be updated after the new general plan is adopted.

 

Supervisor Parker provided a brief history of events which led to the latest version of GPU 5.  The County’s current general plan was adopted in 1982.  Since general plans should be updated every 20 years, or more often if changed circumstances warrant a new plan, the County began the process of updating the plan in 1998.  Several versions were produced and rejected for a variety of reasons, primarily due to lack of agreement regarding growth, zoning, traffic, and other related issues.  When the Board of Supervisors adopted the fourth version of the plan (GPU 4), residents who were concerned about these issues initiated a ballot initiative to vote down the plan.  The Board of Supervisors then sponsored its own initiative, and there were other land-use-related ballot measures, resulting in a somewhat confusing vote, but the ultimate result was the voters rejected GPU 4.  The County then prepared GPU 5, attempting to resolve some of the issues that motivated a “no” vote on GPU 4.  GPU 5 contains a moratorium on subdivisions in North County, a section of the Toro planning area, and a section of the Greater Salinas planning area.  There is also a cap on subdivisions in Carmel Valley, and a policy of concentrating growth in the rural centers such as Boronda, Pajaro, Chualar, etc.

 

Several members of the Planning Department staff generously agreed to attend this community forum.  Director Mike Novo, Assistant Director Carl Holm, and Planner John Ford were on-hand to give presentations and field questions.  They talked about the purpose and scope of a general plan, and provided information about how the public can weigh in on GPU 5.  The Planning Commission is reviewing GPU 5 at its regularly scheduled meetings on the 2nd and last Tuesdays of the month.  Members of the public can attend those meetings, which begin at 9 a.m. in the Board chambers, or watch the meetings on public access television, or via live streamlining video accessible through the Planning Department’s website: www.co.monterey/planning.  The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which is anticipated to vote on GPU 5 in June or July of this year.

 
Discussions

At the start of the meeting, participants were asked to express a question or topic that they hoped to learn more about as a result of the community forum.  The short-hand list recorded on chart paper is as follows:

 

-         More/better bike paths

-         understanding process for GP adoption

-         water issues

-         lack of money means development unlikely to occur

-         circulation/transportation issues

-         challenges to completing GP process

-         waste and recycling

-         affordable housing

-         locations slated for development

-         winery corridor

-         Open Space section 5.2 needs explaining

-         Stranglehold of developers on politicians

-         Truth-tellling

 

After presentations by Supervisor Parker and Planning Department staff, the participants asked a series of in-depth questions regarding the history of the process that led to GPU 5, the status of concepts that appeared to have been dropped from prior general plan versions, the adequacy of the circulation (transportation) chapter, the adequacy of protection for endangered species, the rules governing a planned wine corridor, and more.  The issue of transportation generated a lively discussion about the need to plan for and encourage alternative modes of transportation, since GPU 5 allows growth, and cities within the County are planning for growth, but there is very little road-widening planned or desired.  The Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC)  and the Association of Monterey Bay Area  Governments (AMBAG) were identified as agencies which can play a role in creating more opportunities for residents to use alternative modes of transportation.   It was also noted that the Housing Element, which is a section of GPU 5 that state law requires updating every 5 years, predicts a need for fewer homes than is planned in GPU 5, and questions arose whether GPU 5 plans for more growth than necessary.  It is estimated that 80 % of the growth in Monterey County will take place in the cities, and 20% will take place in unincorporated areas.

 

Participants also discussed the fact that GPU 5 leaves many details to the implementation of ordinances that will establish the rules on key issues in GPU 5, such as the rating system for proposed subdivisions outside of rural centers, and a policy on how to determine whether there is a long-term water supply for a proposed project.  The term, “kick the can down the road” was used by participants to describe this postponement of decisions on key issues.  Supervisor Parker encouraged participants to remain involved in the process of developing those ordinances, since the adoption of GPU 5 does not establish the actual rules and regulations on certain issues that residents care about.  Finally, it will be necessary for the Board of Supervisors to identify what rules apply after the general plan is adopted and before County staff prepares the ordinances setting forth detailed rules. 

 

These same topic areas – growth, zoning, circulation, water - will need to be addressed in local coastal plans, which are scheduled for an update after GPU 5 is adopted. 

 

Conclusion

Participants were actively engaged in a detailed discussion about various aspects of the general plan, demonstrating an on-going level of community involvement in the general planning process, despite the protracted process of getting a new plan adopted.  There will be upcoming opportunities for residents to voice their opinions and help shape the rules on key issues.  The Planning Commission is currently holding hearings on GPU 5 and will be making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, who are anticipated to vote on GPU 5 in June or July.

 

Additional Resources

The General Plan Update 5 and accompanying Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) are available for review on the Planning Department website, at www.co.monterey/planning.  CD's of the FEIR are available for purchase ($5.00) at the Planning Department Permit Center in Salinas.  Paper copies of the FEIR can also be ordered from the County at cost of $206.00.

 

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