General Plan, Take 5?
Supervisors talk compromise in future growth debate.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
In the nasty debate over land-use politics in Monterey County, anti-sprawl and pro-growth activists do seem to agree on one thing: If supervisors move forward with the development-friendly growth document, dubbed GPU 4, the county will get sued.
With the threat of litigation hanging over their heads, the County Supervisors appear to have the political will—and the votes—to produce some type of compromise on future growth in the unincorporated county. But the process for finding middle ground on the General Plan Update has yet to be hammered out.
At its June 19 meeting, the Board of Supervisors met in closed session to discuss potential lawsuits related to the recent election results. On June 5, voters rejected both competing growth ballot measures: 56 percent said no to Measure A, the slow-growth General Plan Initiative; and 55 percent said no to Measure C, the supervisor-approved GPU4.
But voters also defeated Measure B, the GPU4 repeal. In other words, although voters said no to GPU4 in Measure C, they declined to reject the supervisor-approved plan by voting no on Measure B. Some GPU4 supporters claimed victory, and county attorneys told the supervisors that the Measure B vote means GPU4 stands.
Four of the five elected officials, however, say they would prefer a compromise blueprint for future growth.
“I think the board has an opportunity to take a leadership position in bringing this to resolution, rather than just pitching it to the courts,” Supervisor Dave Potter says. “Calmer heads can prevail.”
• • •
“The voters spoke on June 5 and they said they want a resolution to this general plan controversy,” says Supervisors Simón Salinas. “Now it’s up to the board to come up with some type of process, maybe some type of compromise that everybody seems to be talking about. I’m certainly hopeful that we as a board can encourage all of our constituents to come together. It’s too important, too litigious, too expensive to allow this controversy to continue. We have to reach a solution for the betterment of the county.”
Salinas and Potter, along with supervisors Fernando Armenta and Lou Calcagno, all agree that a lengthy court battle should be avoided. In phone interviews with the Weekly, all four indicated that they would like to explore ways to make the general plan more agreeable to the majority of county voters who rejected both the anti-sprawl initiative and GPU4. (Supervisor Jerry Smith, at a recent board meeting, insisted that GPU4 is already a compromise and the decision should be left to a judge.)
“Compromise is always wonderful,” Calcagno says. “It’s obvious that, for the betterment of the county and for its people, we need to come to some middle-of-the-road grounds. Understanding that we’ve got two divided sides and it’s been that way for a while, I, as a supervisor, am willing to try to come to some type of agreement between the two sides.
“But it’s too premature at this point to say exactly where the board is going. I don’t think the board has made up its mind.”
And with the not-to-distant memory of the failed Refinement Group lingering in some supervisors’ minds, defining a process for reaching a compromise growth document will be as important as the final product.
In 2003, supervisors decided to let the Refinement Group, a citizen’s advisory committee, weigh in on an earlier draft of the general plan. Supervisors hoped the committee—made up of some 25 different interest groups, from LandWatch and the Sierra Club to developers’ attorneys and the Farm Bureau—would reach a consensus on future growth in the rural areas of the county. It was a disaster. The group couldn’t even agree that meetings should start and end on time.
This time around, should supervisors decide to appoint a select citizens’ group to hash out differences in where and how the county should grow, it’s likely that the committee will be significantly smaller, and less partisan.
“It is possible to consider changes people want and modifications to GPU4?” Armenta asks. “Will I lean towards that? It depends on what those compromises look like. Will I consider making changes? It depends what people bring forward.
“I need to see and hear more about whether there’s a will on both sides, what that means, what that looks like, and I haven’t seen enough yet.”
Supervisors say they will wait to make any decisions until after the election results are certified, which should happen at the end of the month. Armenta will be out of town for the board’s first July meeting, which puts any movement on a compromise plan—and a process for reaching compromise—out until July 10, at the soonest.
• • •
At least one side in the land-use debate appears to be willing to forge a compromise. At the board’s June 12 meeting, LandWatch’s Chris Fitz urged the supervisors to find a middle ground between Measure A and GPU4.
“In my mind, there are some clear markers to what is middle ground,” Fitz says. “But the process of how the board reaches resolution on those things? Nobody has a clue.
“The most fundamental difference, I think, between Measure A and GPU4, is that the initiative identified five community areas and basically says outside those areas there will be no subdivision. GPU4 allows subdivision everywhere.”
Fitz says supervisors should decide where to allow future growth, and then put a ban on new subdivisions less than 40 acres outside of those specific areas. “That’s a real middle ground,” he says.
At press time, Tom Carvey, a spokesman for the No on A campaign and a GPU4 supporter, could not be reached for comment on Fitz’s suggestions.
Measure A doesn’t permit development in so-called “rural centers,” while GPU4 includes nine rural centers. “So you can get rid of four of them, and allow five rural centers,” Fitz says.
He also has a compromise suggestion for the “community areas,” where the county plans to concentrate future growth in the unincorporated land.
“There are five community areas in the initiative, and seven in GPU4,” Fitz says. “Well, six community areas would be the middle ground, wouldn’t it? And the obvious one to go would be Rancho San Juan.” Voters have now twice rejected huge development plans for Rancho San Juan, between Prunedale and Salinas.
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||100||
The percent of resort guestrooms that the Pebble Beach Company plans to equip with WiFi access and high-definition televisions by the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year. Source: Around at Pebble Beach, the Pebble Beach Company Employee Newsletter.