On February 13, the Amador County Planning Commission heard two proposals for amendments to the county general plan, proposing new land use designations and tentative subdivision maps for parcels just outside Amador City. The county staff report indicated that only one measure was required to mitigate the cultural resource impacts of the projects. This mitigation measure was a typical one used by the county in the past, which requires any cultural resource discoveries during construction to be reported to the county.
However, the 2016 general plan and its accompanying environmental impact report (EIR) require a number of mitigation measures when a project is proposed within an identified high cultural sensitivity area. Those measures include identification of resources in the project area before the county approves the environmental document for the project.
Gary Reinoehl of Pioneer, a cultural resource specialist, commented to the Planning Department that the parcels included in the proposed general plan amendments were within a high cultural resource sensitivity area shown in the general plan. One parcel has a mine head frame on it that not only wasn’t identified as a cultural resource, no measures were identified that would ensure that the head frame would not be affected by the project. Reinoehl also pointed out the inconsistencies between the mitigation measures identified in the general plan EIR and project documents, and requested that the planning commission require the approved mitigations in the general plan EIR.
However, the planning commission approved the two proposed general plan amendments without that mitigation on a 3-1 vote (with one commissioner absent). Since the county board of supervisors must approve any revisions to the general plan, the projects were forwarded to the board for review.
At the March 27 board meeting, the staff report recommended mitigation measures consistent with the general plan and EIR as Reinoehl had requested. County Counsel Greg Gillott explained to the board that their project approvals must be consistent with the general plan EIR. The board asked the applicants if they would like more time to complete the required cultural resource identification before a vote on their requests. The applicants requested that the hearing be continued so they could complete the required work to ensure that the cultural resources in the project areas were identified and the impacts clearly identified and mitigated.
We would like to thank the Amador County Planning Department for recommending the additional mitigation measures, county counsel for explaining the process, the board of supervisors for allowing the applicants additional time, and Gary Reinoehl for his excellent work in looking out for our county’s irreplaceable cultural resources.