Calaveras County has been struggling to develop a new general plan for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, its draft general plan update suffers from many of the same problems that inspired legal challenges to the 2015 El Dorado County Targeted General Plan Amendment and the 2016 Amador County General Plan Update.
Calaveras’s draft plan pushes excessive levels of new development at the expense of existing residents and their property values. As drafted, the plan can burden existing residents with the road, water, sewer, public safety, and public service costs associated with new development. It lacks reasonable standards for development while failing to protect the interests of existing residents and the quality of the natural environment. Sadly, the plan fails to embrace opportunities to plan for achievable neighborhood improvements that enhance property values and quality of life.
Fortunately, you can help secure a better future for Calaveras County by helping fix this plan. Many of the public officials who built the draft were swept out of office in the November election. There are four new county supervisors and four new planning commissioners. As the general plan EIR is being written over the next year, county government will be looking for feasible ways to reduce the adverse impacts of future development.
As the process proceeds, you can provide your suggestions to the new supervisors, the new planning commissioners, and Planning Director Peter Maurer. It helps if you can explain how your suggestion has worked in other parts of the state, how it would be funded, and how it would help existing residents and businesses. If your proposal solves a problem that is unique to your town or immediate community, your solution can be included in the general plan’s Community Planning Section and applied exclusively to your community.
One good way to help bring meaningful comments to the general plan is to join the Calaveras Planning Coalition (Foothill Conservancy is a member group). The coalition will be developing extensive comments on the EIR, just as Foothill Conservancy submitted detailed comments on the Amador County general plan EIR (let’s hope Calaveras pays better attention to them than did Amador).
We are greatly privileged to live and to work in these foothill counties, with their appealing mix of unspoiled natural beauty, working landscapes, and rugged historic structures. As we enter this next era of development, we are called upon to be gentler on our pocketbooks and on our planet. Instead of spending inordinate amounts of money trying to transform our counties into something completely different, it is better to focus on living within our means, and cost-effectively making what we have — and what we pass on to the future — just a little bit better. That will enrich our property values, our quality of life, and our legacy.
For more information on the Calaveras County General Plan Update, see the Calaveras Planning Coalition website or e-mail Coordinator Tom Infusino.