The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors effectively quashed a citizen initiative related to land development July 29. Without killing it directly, the board sent it for a “30-day review” specifically for analysis of its potential economic impact to the county.
That process would extend beyond the statewide deadline of Aug. 8 to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot. The soonest it could go to voters would be in 2016 unless the county holds a special election before that time. Supervisors did not indicate any interest in a special election for that purpose.
Initiative proponents Sue Taylor and Laurel Stroud, along with a number of other speakers, passionately urged the board to allow the measure to be added to the Nov. 4 ballot. More than 9,000 residents signed the petition to get the initiative through the elections system process in time to meet the deadline. Several regular attendees at board meetings asked supervisors to “treat it like the other initiatives” the board has approved for the ballot.
“You did not require a report on the Region Builders, so treat ours the same,” Lori Parlin of the Shingle Springs Community Alliance demanded.
“Let the people decide,” Fran Duchamp of Pollock Pines said.
Referring to the 9,000 residents who signed the petition, Patti Chelseth said, “The citizens have spoken. Let it go to the ballot. Stop the urbanization of the county.”
In the official documents, proponents define the measure as an “Initiative to Reinstate Measure Y’s original intent — no more paper roads”
Measure Y, passed by voters in 1998 and renewed for another 10 years in 2008, limits certain residential development if it is likely to create more traffic congestion on county roads and/or add to Highway 50’s Level of Service F (gridlock, stop-and-go traffic) status during peak commute hours. Caltrans has already declared the stretch of Highway 50 between the county line and El Dorado Hills Boulevard to be at LOS F and from there to Cameron Park nearing LOS F.
Center and Moore want analysis
Former District 4 Supervisor Bill Center and pollster Jim Moore of Camino formally requested the board to order the 30-day review of the initiative, which could be described as a competitor to their own “Fix Highway 50 traffic First/Keep us Rural” initiative, which has already been approved for the November ballot. Center told supervisors that the “Reinstate Measure Y’s Original Intent” initiative was far more restrictive than the original Measure Y and could deal a significant blow to any new building projects in the county.
“This initiative is unclear and not consistent. It’s critical that an economic study be made of this,” Center said, referring specifically to the following language in the initiative: “All necessary road improvements shall be fully completed to prevent cumulative traffic impacts from new development from reaching Level of Service F upon any highway, arterial roads and their intersections during weekday, peak-hour periods in unincorporated areas of the county before any form of discretionary approval can be given to a project.”
Center’s documents highlighted the underlined sections, and, he said, “A discretionary project applies to almost every project brought before the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission. Ms. Taylor’s language prohibits approving any kind of discretionary project — no matter how big or small.”
He also challenged the initiative as not being a “simple reinstatement of the original Measure Y,” which, he said, only limited “residential housing projects of five or more parcels or units — not job projects.”
Acknowledging that a 30-day review would bump the initiative into the next election cycle in June 2016, Center concluded, “We believe there are far too many serious economic impacts from this measure that need to be analyzed before voters are asked to make a decision.”
On the previous agenda item, supervisors approved an initiative that addresses community regions and rural centers. The initiative would amend the general plan to eliminate Community Region Lines from Pollock Pines-Camino, Shingle Springs, Cedar Grove and a portion of areas along Green Valley Road. Proponents note that would protect those areas from higher density housing development by reclassifying them as Rural Centers.
Building on Center’s remarks, Moore noted that the economic effects would be “difficult to know” and that the “language is too broad and voters need to know about significant (economic) impacts.”
Volunteers deserve respect
Describing how significant the community’s efforts were in putting the initiative together and obtaining the required signatures on the petition, Taylor told supervisors that the volunteers deserved “tremendous respect on this” which could be shown by allowing it to join the other development-related initiatives on the November ballot.
Former Placerville City Council member Kathi Lishman said, “Let it go to the ballot.”
Mark E. Smith of Garden Valley cautioned supervisors to “Stop threatening people with economic collapse… Let the people decide.”
Moments later, Taylor approached the podium and interrupted County Counsel Ed Knapp’s remarks on the differences between the board’s “discretionary” powers and the county’s “ministerial” powers. Taylor challenged that Knapp was “lobbying” in favor of opposing the initiative. Chairpeson Norma Santiago scolded Taylor, saying, “Public comment is closed.”
Board votes 3-1
Supervisor Ron Briggs called the initiative “far-reaching” and suggested that it would strip the board of “any discretionary power on anything.” Briggs made the formal motion to send it to the review process. Supervisor Brian Veerkamp seconded the motion “for discussion purposes.”
Santiago immediately announced that she would not support the motion. She favored allowing the initiative to go on to the ballot, and Veerkamp wondered aloud, “Is there some compromise here?
“I wish we had done our job earlier on this,” Veerkamp said just before the 3-1 vote to send the initiative for review. Supervisor Ron Mikulaco joined Briggs and Veerkamp, and as promised Santiago voted “no.”
Outside the government center, Taylor was unable to contain her anger and disappointment after the vote. She accused supervisors, saying, “They’re all in bed with each other and in the pockets of certain big developers.”
Parlin wrote an extensive e-mail in response to a request for comment. She said the initiative’s proponents had asked the board back in May to direct a general review of all the initiatives so that there would be no failures to meet the deadlines. The board subsequently ordered a “high level” review of all the initiatives June 10, which “seemed to be a good solution that would make it fair to all initiative proponents and create an informational report for voters to use to make decisions,” Parlin wrote. And thus, she said it was assumed by supporters that there would be no further specific review, and the volunteers continued to gather signatures.
“…just imagine our shock when the board decided to differentiate our Reinstate Measure Y initiative from all of the other initiatives and order a 30-day report on it,” she said describing the board’s July 29 action.