Nearly three weeks ago, Jerry Smith stunned the Board of Supervisors—not to mention the public —when he asked his colleagues to adopt a General Plan written by pro-development interests who call themselves the Refinement Group.
Conventional wisdom said someone must have gotten to Smith. Perhaps Refinement Group members lobbied him in the weeks proceeding his March 15 stunner. That looked to be the m.o. last year, when, after meetings with attorneys, developers and agricultural interests, three of the five Supervisors voted to kill the revision to the General Plan known as GPU3.
Maybe it was Scheid Vineyards VP Kurt Gollnick, who sits on the Refinement Group. Scheid Vineyards gave Smith $1,000 in his successful supervisorial bid. So did several other big business and agricultural interests.
Conventional wisdom was apparently wrong. Smith’s calendar, recently obtained by the Weekly, highlights many board meetings (aside from the Board of Supervisors, Smith sits on the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, the Local Agency Formation Commission, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County and the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments boards); it also shows Smith meeting with county department heads and attending dinners, conferences, grand openings and speaking engagements. Smith’s calendar doesn’t list a single meeting with Refinement Group members.
Smith’s big motion came at the end of an all-day meeting on March 15. He made it following a routine-looking agenda item, which simply called for Supervisors to set dates for future study sessions on the different elements of the General Plan—specific meetings that will address housing, traffic, agriculture, open space and the like.
It was late in the day. Most people had gone home, save more than a dozen members of the Refinement Group, a coalition of developers, attorneys, vintners, growers and labor groups. This is the same crowd that pumped thousands of dollars into Smith’s campaign.
Only a couple of people involved in drafting another competing General Plan—one calling for slower approach to growth, called the Community General Plan—were at the board meeting. Smith gave a rambling soliloquy about partisan bickering in Congress, and making lemonade out of lemons, and the fact that Monterey County voters had famously waited five years and spent $5 million on a plan.
And then he dropped the bomb—making a motion asking County Supervisors to move forward with the Refinement Group’s proposal.
“My motion is consistent with those [agenda items],” Smith told his fellow Supervisors.
“It’s consistent with encouraging chaos,” replied Supervisor Dave Potter. “If the public had known that there was a possibility of selecting one plan and moving forward, this room would be packed. To do this, in this format, is insulting to the public. Vote it up or vote it down, but advertise it accordingly.”
Smith later withdrew his motion.
Nearly three weeks later, the board met again to work on the General Plan. What would Jerry do? Surprisingly, not much.
On March 31, County Supervisors met for the first of a series of workshops intended to give county planners specific instructions about what they want to see in a finished 20-year plan.
The workshops will continue over the next two months, after which planners will draft another version of the growth plan.
Planning Commissioners and the Board of Supervisors will hold hearings on the draft before it’s eventually adopted.
On March 31, the board gave “tentative” support to concepts including: retaining the basic land use designations and zoning patterns from the existing 1982 plan; developing a “ranking system” to score proposed developments in rural areas based on water availability, affordable housing, roads and other infrastructure needs, and job opportunities, among other things; establishing “urban limit lines” to limit cities’ future growth; and establishing eight “community areas,” which would be top priorities for rural growth. These areas are Pajaro, Castroville, Boronda, Chualar, East Garrison, Moss Landing, Pine Canyon and San Lucas.
Smith didn’t say much until it came time to discuss these proposed community areas.
“We’re not really addressing the housing imbalance,” he said. “We are not putting housing next to jobs.”
He pointed out that Monterey County residents work in the hospitality industry and the hospitality industry is located on the Peninsula; therefore, Carmel Valley should be designated a community area, too.
But because there’s little water in Carmel Valley and lots of traffic—not to mention loads of political pressure—it’s not going to happen.
The next day, the Supes tentatively axed the 40-acre minimum on new rural subdivisions. They also gave a tentative thumbs ups to proposed Salinas Valley “wine corridors,” buffers between agriculture and residential development; a program to allow farm families with big lots to build houses for family members on one-acre pieces of the farm; and the establishment of a “three-tiered approach” to farming activities.
This tiered approach means that most “routine and ongoing” agricultural operations wouldn’t need county permits. “Major activities,” however—like large processing facilities and truck stops—would still be required to obtain permits and county approval.
Smith, other than asking an occasional question that occasionally made sense or making a motion to tentatively approve a staff recommendation, kept quiet.
More General Plan workshops will be scheduled in April and May. What will Jerry do?