LandWatch.org

Keep The General Plan Process Public!

April 30, 2003

Fernando Armenta, Chair
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
240 Church Street
Salinas, CA 93901

RE: Next Steps On The General Plan Update

Dear Members of the Board of Supervisors:

This letter is to urge your Board to complete the General Plan Update process, and to do so promptly. The comments made by members of the Board last Tuesday were extremely disturbing. Here’s what I heard:

  1. The Board might seriously consider having a special interest planning consultant, on the payroll of a group that has strenuously objected to the General Plan at every opportunity, give the Board some sort of special guidance on what that plan ought to say.

    To allow Larry Mintier and/or the 21st Century Solutions Group some “special" position in connection with further consideration of the General Plan Update would be a complete betrayal of the public process that has brought the plan this far.

  2. The Board might seriously consider sending off the Plan (in parts) to a set of “insider" committees, including Board Members.

    The only reason that the GPU is now back before the Board is for the Board to conduct a “check in," as Jim Colangelo called it, to make sure that the staff has properly captured the earlier directions of the Board, in producing this “second draft" document. No set of “committees" or other extensive review is needed for the Board to make that determination. Once the Board decides that the second draft document is consistent with what it previously ordered, it should promptly send the second draft out for environmental review and further public comment.

  3. The Board might seriously consider abandoning the GPU process, and returning to the 1982 General Plan.

    The Board has spent something like three years and $4 million dollars on the GPU so far, and the public has invested its time and resources as well. (This includes many people who have incurred significant expenses for attorneys to represent them in the process). Simply to abandon the public process at this point would be the deepest sort of affront to democratic participation.

The Board began the GPU process with a commitment to involve the public—and they have done so. Because they have done so, the draft GPU has many positive features, reflecting the Twelve Guiding Objectives adopted by the Board, which demand that new growth be directed to areas where it can be accommodated in a cost-effective and environmentally protective manner.

LandWatch urges the Board to continue its commitment to the public, and to follow the process it has outlined from the beginning. If the Board intends to maintain its commitment to the public process, then now is the time to let the public have an opportunity to comment on the “second draft" GPU. After the next round of comment and environmental review, the Board will, of course, make the final decisions—but the Board should do so only after completing the public process, as it has promised from the start.

Finally, it is important for the Board to realize that legal challenges and initiative efforts will almost certainly result if the Board does not maintain its commitment to the public process it has spent so much time and money on so far. My opinion is that a legal challenge to the 1982 General Plan would be successful. It is woefully out of date and internally inconsistent. Similarly, I think the public will legislate directly if its elected officials abandon the public process they promised to follow.

In conclusion, LandWatch urges your Board to make any corrections it deems necessary to conform the second draft GPU to its earlier actions, and then to continue the public process.

At least two possible corrections were highlighted at the Board meeting last Tuesday:

There may be other changes that are needed at this point, to bring the current draft into agreement with the Board’s earlier direction. However, except for making those kinds of changes, there is no need for any other Board action at this point. Now is the time to let the public—operating on a “level playing field," with no special advantages given to special interests—to have their opportunity to comment on the “second draft" GPU, which reflects the changes that the Board made after the first set of public comments. After the next round of public comment and environmental review has been completed, it will then be time for the Board to decide what to do, and to make its policy choices.

Thank you for taking these comments into account.

cc: Interested Persons

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posted 05.02.03