LandWatch Urges Strong General Plan Objectives

July 17, 2001

Edith Johnsen, Chair
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
240 Church Street, 2nd Floor
Salinas, CA 93901

RE: General Plan Update Process / Agenda for Board Meeting of July 24, 2001

Dear Chairperson Johnsen and Members of the Board:

LandWatch represents about a thousand members, from throughout Monterey County. LandWatch members believe that the land use policies adopted by and implemented by local government agencies will have a critically important impact on the future of our local economy, on the fundamental fairness and equity of our society, and on the health of our environment.

As you know, LandWatch has been closely following and participating in the County’s General Plan Update process. We believe that the next General Plan must have strong land use policies that:

  1. 1. Require new development actually to produce new housing that is affordable to individuals and families who work in Monterey County, and that is integrated into mixed income neighborhoods throughout the county.

  2. 2. Provide strong and secure protection for the county’s prime and commercially viable agricultural lands, which are coming under increasing pressure for development.

  3. 3. Stop urban sprawl, and direct most new growth into existing urban areas.

  4. 4. Require that the services needed by new development be provided before or at the same time that the development is approved, and not deferred until later. This means that new developments should not be approved unless adequate water supplies, schools, libraries, police and fire services—and adequate street and highway infrastructure—are available at the time that the development goes forward.

  5. 5. Improve the permit and regulatory process, and provide certainty about development standards and policies to developers and the public alike.

The County has undertaken an aggressive and largely successful public outreach process. The Board has asked the public to tell the County what it cares about—and what the problems are. LandWatch is pleased to note that the vast majority of the people who have participated in this process have stated their strong agreement with the principles outlined above.

Now, it is time for the Board of Supervisors to direct the actual preparation of a General Plan document that will include the kind of policies that good planning—and the public—demand.

The County Planning Commission is recommending that the General Plan Update be prepared based on a set of "Objectives" that they have considered at two public meetings. While we urged even stronger statements with respect to some of these objectives, LandWatch believes that the Commission has done an excellent job in stating what the next General Plan should be trying to achieve. The critical action, at this juncture, is to direct the County staff to prepare an actual text, and a set of maps to go along with it, so that future comment can focus on specifics.

LandWatch thinks that more delay, at this stage, is only detrimental. As helpful and extensive as the public outreach process has been, comments and contributions have necessarily been limited, because they have been focused on "generalities." When the staff has taken the next step, and has delivered an actual text, and maps, and a Draft EIR, it will be possible for all interested persons to make comments that are specific and focused. The County needs to move to that more specific level.

In conclusion, LandWatch urges the Board of Supervisors to direct its staff to prepare a draft General Plan Update that is based on the Objectives recommended to the Board by the Planning Commission, with a further direction to produce a Draft Environmental Impact Report, concurrently.

Thank you for taking our comments into account as you consider the General Plan Update process at your next meeting.

cc: County GPU Staff
County Planning Commission

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