By last Wednesday afternoon, the local political grapevine was in full bloom as county leaders learned about the petition filed Jan. 14 by the Rural Communities United.
“I’m not quite certain what it means,” District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting said in a phone call. “I haven’t had time to study it carefully (other than a quick reading), and it would be premature to comment too much on it without more review. If it’s legally sound, it’s going to be a big deal and could change the entire General Plan. I live way out in the woods, so I don’t have anything personal at stake, but it’s going to be interesting.”
Several of the big proposed housing developments overlap into District 2 including San Stino, Marble Valley and Lime Valley in Shingle Springs and the western portions of the county. Ron Mikulaco’s District 1 would be the site of parts of Marble Valley and Lime Valley as well.
Bill Center, speaking for RCU, explained at some length the group’s decision to file the Intent to Petition just before noon on Tuesday. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors was in session and getting ready for a 2:30 p.m. presentation by the Shingle Springs Community Alliance, another group involved in development of the petition.
Center said that elections law and deadlines played some role in the decision to move forward with the petition, noting that ideally, it should have been filed a couple of months earlier to take full advantage of the 180 days allowed for collecting signatures. Again by election code, the ballot measure needs to be verified and submitted within 90 to 120 days prior to the election in order to be included on the November ballot. He estimated that the signature effort might only have about 100 days after County Counsel gives the OK on the language and legalities of the document. County Counsel has received the documents from the Elections Department and has 15 working days to complete its review and approval.
The County Counsel’s Office will write the “ballot title” and a summary of the measure that will be included on the petition. County Counsel Ed Knapp further noted, “We also will write the impartial analysis of the measure that will go into the ballot pamphlet for the election, assuming that the proponents of the measure obtain the required number of signatures to get it on the ballot.”
A leader in previous initiatives, especially Measure Y, Center said the current effort “didn’t extend Measure Y because the county needs to look at how it will fund road improvements into the future.” Part of Measure Y holds that developers must be able to “mitigate” negative traffic impacts with work on the ground or by paying into the county’s Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee program. He also said, “The county needs to move off of the position of implementing the entire scope of the General Plan.” (That is, not building out to the highest capacity allowed by the General Plan.)
Ron Mikulaco sent the following e-mail at noon Thursday: “I have a deep appreciation for the local initiative process and I trust voters will make an informed decision. My job is to listen and attempt to balance all opinions and information and to implement what is in the best interest of our community and county. However, it appears the measure has the potential to work contrary to local control as it abdicates the most important local decisions to state bureaucrats and forces complex land issues to be decided by formula rather than locally elected officials accountable to the community.”
Center described an “imbalance that currently exists within the county.” Homes that are being built or proposed in large numbers “are for people who will work outside the county.” Typically that means commuters driving down the hill to work in Sacramento County. The General Plan calls for a much closer balance between the number of residential units constructed and the number of jobs created for those new residents, and Center said multi-family units and even “big box” stores would help reach the goals laid out in the General Plan. He added that he expected there would be “some heated discussions” going forward. Ironically, early opposition to the initiative also focuses on jobs.
Josh Wood, representing Regional Builders, a six-county professional association that includes architects, engineers and contractors, likely will be one of the participants in the “heated discussions.” Wood said Thursday morning that his group expects to “formulate an aggressive position to protect jobs” to counter what he called “a pretty massive attack on job creation in El Dorado County.” Wood said his industry has encountered resistance in other counties in the region “but never to this degree.” He said his board of directors was planning to review the documents and begin preparing a response later Thursday morning.