On November 24, 2015, the Calaveras Planning Coalition, to which we belong, presented a formal written request to Calaveras County Planning Director Peter Maurer for a copy of the draft general plan developed for the county by consultants Mintier Harnish (“Mintier plan”). That plan was prepared over a four-year period, at a cost of over $900,000, before the consultant was replaced in November 2012.
Since then, the County has refused to let the public see the Mintier plan, and has entered into over $400,000 in additional contracts for new consultants to write another general plan. The new consultants did not participate in the more than 20 public meetings that were held throughout Calaveras County from 2007 to 2010 to collect ideas and comments for the plan from over 1,000 people.
Coalition Facilitator Tom Infusino presented a copy of the request to the Board of Supervisors during its meeting on November 24. The 17-page request referenced 31 attachments and included detailed legal arguments explaining the people’s right to see the document.
The general plan’s importance
A general plan has been called the constitution for all future development. It is the fundamental document that empowers a board of supervisors to make land-use decisions.
When completed, Calaveras County’s new general plan will identify potential future locations of homes and businesses, acceptable levels of traffic congestion and the efforts that the County will take, or not, to conserve its water supply, protect water quality, to preserve wildlife habitat, and maintain the viability of farms, ranches, and forestlands.
The coalition asked for a copy of the Mintier plan so that the professionally produced policy options, custom-crafted for Calaveras County and based on tremendous public participation, could be considered by the public and the board of supervisors. The document could also prove useful as an alternative included for analysis in the upcoming general plan environmental impact report and as a source of mitigation measures to reduce the effects of implementing the new general plan.
The County’s responses
In a shocking disclosure, Calaveras County now claims that the Mintier plan “is no longer in existence.” In a December 4 letter denying the request for the plan, Assistant County Counsel David Sirias wrote that, “The Planning Department did not retain the original draft from Mintier Harnish.”
In testimony before the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors on December 8, Infusino stated that Mintier Harnish retains a copy of the plan and is willing to provide a copy if the county allows them to do so.
The board did not respond to Infusino’s request to put the item on the next board agenda for discussion and action. So on December 18, the coalition filed an appeal with the county planning commission, expecting them to hear the matter. Three days later, Planning Director Maurer responded that the commission would not hear the appeal. The CPC is awaiting clarification from the county on the reasons for his response.
In summary, Calaveras County staff has censored an important environmental protection document generated by the public, for the public, and at great public expense —and County elected and appointed officials are so far denying the public their right to an administrative hearing to contest the violation of their constitutional rights.
The Public Records Act request and attachments can be viewed on the CPC website.