LandWatch.org

Important GPU Decisions on November 26th

November 22, 2002

David Potter, Chair [Sent By FAX and Email]
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
240 Church Street
Salinas, CA 93901

RE: General Plan Update and Property Owner Requests
November 26, 2002 Agenda – Item S-11

Dear Chairperson Potter and Board Members:

To date, as a new General Plan has been developed, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors has maintained a commitment to principle-based planning. The draft GPU was based on twelve “guiding objectives," and these guiding objectives articulated important planning principles that represent the “heart and soul" of the draft GPU. Moreover, these twelve guiding objectives were developed from one of the most aggressive and successful public outreach efforts that has ever been undertaken in this county.

The public understands and overwhelmingly supports the planning principles upon which the draft GPU has been based. Among other things, these principles require that new growth be directed into a small number of areas specifically set aside for urban level development. This fundamental principle will guarantee that new growth goes where services can be provided in a cost-effective manner, and will also make certain that the community preserves and protects the commercial agricultural lands that support our local economy, and the natural and open space lands that make Monterey County such a unique and spectacular place.

It is now time to do a “next draft" of the General Plan Update. LandWatch asks each member of the Board to maintain the Board’s commitment to principle-based planning, as you take your actions on November 26th. Specifically, LandWatch asks Board Members to deny all property owner requests that are inconsistent with the fundamental, guiding objectives that are the foundation upon which the draft General Plan Update has been based.

The County Administrative Officer is making a recommendation to you that proposes “political compromise" as the foundation for your decision-making on November 26th.

Please reject this approach. You are asked by the CAO to approve at least twelve different property owner requests for the development of rural and agricultural lands that are inconsistent with the principles upon which the draft General Plan Update has been based. All of these property owner requests have been subjected to review by the public, Planning Commission, and the County’s planning staff—as well as by the Board of Supervisors itself. These are proposals that both the Planning Commission and the planning staff have agreed are fundamentally inconsistent with the principles upon which the draft GPU is based.

Naturally, approving only twelve inconsistent property owner requests is better than approving thirty-four, or two hundred and seventy. This Board gets public credit, however, not for the five votes that may be mobilized for a compromised plan, but for three votes mobilized for a General Plan based on principle.

The ultimate adoption of an internally consistent, legally sufficient General Plan that will meet the needs of Monterey County in the 21st Century depends on your continued commitment to principle-based planning.

Again, LandWatch urges your Board to maintain such a commitment to a principle-based planning process. The new General Plan for Monterey County should be based on the good planning principles developed through the County’s extensive public process—principles that the public overwhelmingly supports. Accommodating individual development requests when these go contrary to the principles that establish the public interest is not a “victory." It’s a defeat.

Rancho San Juan
A number of the property owner requests are related to a proposed development at Rancho San Juan, adjacent to the City of Salinas. This is an extremely controversial (and massive) development proposal that has been officially opposed by the City of Salinas, and that has drawn very critical commentary from members of the public, and from groups like LandWatch.

I am restating a recommendation made in earlier comments on the draft General Plan Update. You can return to a principle-based planning approach in the Rancho San Juan area by eliminating any reference to Rancho San Juan in the new GPU—but including language in the GPU that says that the County is processing a Specific Plan request for this area, submitted under the current General Plan, and that when a decision has been made on this Specific Plan for Rancho San Juan, the new General Plan Update will be amended to incorporate the decisions made in that specific planning process. All the property owner requests related to Rancho San Juan should be considered, and either accepted or rejected, as part of that Specific Plan process.
Placing commitments to Rancho San Juan in the new GPU is to make a precommitment, prior to completing the Specific Plan process now underway. The Board should reject such a precommitment, and carry the current Specific Plan process to completion.

Return The “Next Draft" To The Public
The current proposal is to direct a “redraft" of the General Plan Update, and then to bring that redraft back to the next Board of Supervisors for further review and action. LandWatch urges you (whatever your decisions today) to direct the County Administrative Officer to incorporate the changes you mandate, and then to return the “next draft" to the public, and submit it to environmental review. This Board has been “tinkering" with the draft GPU for about three months. It’s time to give the public another chance to comment on the next draft. The Board, of course, will always get the final word.

Thank you for taking our strongly held views into consideration.

cc: CAO; County GPU Staff; Planning Commission

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