The Foothill Conservancy is pleased to see that some of our land use principles were followed in the Draft 1 Land Use Map for the Calaveras County General Plan Update.
For the most part, the designation of un-subdivided lands does not put additional conversion pressure on agricultural lands or threaten the continued operation of existing industrial or commercial businesses. With some limited exceptions, the map did much to protect agricultural lands and open space resources. In addition, along the Highway 4 corridor, an effort was made to retain separation of communities to the degree possible given existing development. Along the Highway 12 corridor, around Burson and Wallace, and on segments of Bear Creek, key riparian habitat and migration corridors were designated as Working Landscapes or Resource Production lands so that future development will not harm the land’s value to wildlife.
While we are still waiting for land use maps for some community centers, those released to date have concentrated all new commercial and residential development in and adjacent to existing community centers.
One Foothill Conservancy development principle is that land uses should be consistent with stated community visions or goals. Consistent with of this principle, the communities in supervisorial District 2 produced their own land use maps after a series of lively town hall meetings. Four of these maps were favorably reviewed at Planning Commission workshops in June. The text of the Paloma Community Plan explicitly directs the County to use the Foothill Conservancy’s land use principles as a guide in making any land use decisions for the area, and incorporates those principles as an attachment to the plan.
Public comments on the map and the land use designation summaries were submitted in April, and the Planning Department has already responded positively to some of those comments. For example, the Planning Department has assured the public that the land use designation summaries will be expanded and modified before being finalized, in particular to recognize that resource conservation, habitat protection, and open space preservation are acceptable land uses in the Resource Production designation. In addition, the development density allowed in that designation ranges from one homesite per 40 acres to one homesite per 160 acres. This recognizes that the primary use of these lands is for range, habitat open space and forestry, and that these uses should not be pushed out by conflicting residential uses.
Of course, the land use designation map is only one limited tool in the land use box. To see if the General Plan Update will meet the remainder of our development principles, we will have to wait for the release of the text of the general plan. Only then can we determine if the plan will:
- Limit development approval when water is unavailable,
- Prevent new development from outpacing the ability of local governments to provide services and infrastructure,
- Protect the physical features of the land, and
- Mitigate the impacts of new development.
Many thanks go to the Community Action Project, to our colleagues at the Calaveras Planning Coalition, to the Calaveras County General Plan Update team, and to the good people of Calaveras County for their efforts in incorporating some of our land use principles into a draft general plan map.