Visioning exercise attracts 150
The inaugural public CEDAC-EDH meeting was held on April 18 in the Community Services District Pavilion. Attendance fluctuated through a lively two-hour discussion. Organizers concluded that 150 people participated.
Moderator T Abraham represents El Dorado Hills on the county Community and Economic Development Advisory Committee, and is also on the CEDAC-EDH steering committee.
The stated intent was to initiate the process of creating a vision for unincorporated El Dorado Hills — a tangible reference document for county officials who make decisions that affect the land use, roadway and other planning decisions that affect the community. Many decisions are coming up in the next several months.
Similar exercises are happening in communities across the county, said District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco, who framed the effort with introductory comments. “Most of those communities don’t look like this,” he said. “This is our chance to have a voice … on what we want this community to be.”
Abraham explained that the County’s 2004 General Plan calls for community input, but little has been accomplished in the past.
“The county is asking for our input … If we don’t step up … that void will be filled by those with specific projects or concerns,” he said. “The larger voice of the community will not be heard.”
In the past, decisions were made with input from just a few people, generally those with direct financial interest or else affected by the outcome, said Abraham. He asked attendees to imagine a thick document with a nice title like “EDH Community Identity.” It might contain a summary of months of input from thousands of residents.
“It could spell out our community priorities, with details like the trails we’d like to see, the types of housing, roads, businesses, and services … with sections on economic development, land use, job creation, traffic, and on and on,” he said. “When our supervisors make decisions that affect us, they’ll know what we all want … rather than just the handful of people that have the time to stand in front of them on Tuesday mornings in Placerville.”
The goal is to have a document complete by the end of the year. The county will provide tools and resources, but the community’s largest asset “is sitting in this room,” Abraham said, calling out several people by name.
“It sounds daunting, but we have some tremendous resources involved and we want more,” he continued. “These are your neighbors.”
The vision document will require the effort of small groups (subcommittee) that will have to work cooperatively. Abraham promised strategies, websites and funding in the months ahead. “Tonight, we just want to hear what your priorities for El Dorado Hills are.”
The CEDAC-EDH structure, integrity and intent were all questioned during a heated 20-plus minute Q&A session. The steering committee took questions from growth-leery residents head-on.
The committee was not elected, but came together to prime the pump based on their reputations and past community development accomplishments.
EDAC-EDH is an organic, volunteer-based organization which lacks structure by intent, similar to the regulatory reform subcommittee of county CEDAC.
Developers are unlikely to “stack” local subcommittees, Abraham said, addressing come concerns, telling the audience. “They already have a voice in Placerville. If you think CEDAC is a bunch of developers … come to our meetings and see for yourself.”
Proposed developments are not cast in stone. The largest, in fact, are in the very early stages of approval.
Area Plan Advisory Committee members are involved in CEDAC-EDH but the current vision is much larger than APAC, which typically reacts to proposed projects, whereas CEDAC-EDH is engaged at the policy level.
The steering committee acknowledged the county’s use of “Community ID” in the commercial and mixed-use approval process, and is using “Community ID and design” to convey a broader, non-technical sense of community ID that better corresponds to the vision exercise.
The specific method for aggregating and disbursing the results of the meetings is a work in progress. For now, there will be email updates to both volunteers and those who simply wish to be kept informed.
Thanks to Hal Erpenbeck, the interim website and e-mail address are up now. Results of the April 11 meeting will be posted as soon as they are approved by the steering committee.
A lively brainstorm session followed, yielding two dozen priorities from attendees. Afterward, residents put their e-mail addresses on topics that pique their interest.
The steering committee will organize, prioritize and likely consolidate the topics, form subcommittees to study them and contact the volunteers.
Many residents lingered in the pavilion late into the evening, discussing the CDAC-EDH topics and others that concern them: the need for another high school in El Dorado Hills, high water rates, the recent rezone and sale of the Winn parcel on Francisco Drive and Green Valley Road, the need for a decent sound system in the pavilion and also the need for basic education in El Dorado County land use.
Green Valley Alliance members Kelly and John Garcia hoped the meeting would address congestion on Green Valley Road. The alliance website reported on the meeting, noting the lack of chaos and rioting, while reminding their members that the process was to implement, not alter, the General Plan.
Longtime APAC volunteers John Hidahl and Jeff Haberman worked tirelessly in preparation for the meeting, and seemed concerned at the critical nature of some of the comments they heard.
The balance of the steering committee was more upbeat. Kathy Witherow heard good things.
“These people know how much work it takes to pull something like this off,” said Jim Brunello, who heads county CEDAC. “Some people will always be critical, and if you keep coming back you see it’s the same people being critical of everything outside their specific interest.”
Noelle Mattock reported consistently positive feedback. “It feels like we accomplished our first step goal: to introduce the concept, and pique the interest of our community to get ready to roll up their sleeves.”
Everyone agreed that Abraham did a masterful job of moderating. His only comment for print was, “It’s not about me.”
If you would like to volunteer or simply be kept informed of any of the topics mentioned below, send e-mail to [email protected].
Parks & Recreation
Scope: trails, open space, youth sports.
Chair: Noelle Mattock
Corridor Traffic & Transportation
Scope: traffic and safety issues on major thoroughfares, not specific projects or funding. Vision for buildout.
Chair: John Hidahl
Scope: Review proposed zoning ordinance update. Consider allowed changes in areas not built out yet. No changes to General Plan land use.
Community I.D. & Design
Scope: Needs assessment including walkable community.
Chair: Jeff Haberman
Commercial and Mixed Use zoning
Scope: Housing to support El Dorado Hills Town Center.
Chair: John Hidahl
Business Park Traffic & Transportation
Scope: Roads not adequate to support Business Park at build out.
Chair: Kathy Witherow
Scope: Currently 200 companies, 3,000 jobs on 900 acres. Goal is to attract more.
Chair: Debbie Manning
Scope: Short term web strategy.
Scope: Impact of growth on law enforcement, fire protection, EMS.
Preservation of Resources
Scope: Natural, historical, animals, arts.
Heart of the Community
Scope: Central vehicle to bring all stakeholders and organizations concerned with one thing, such as youth, together.
Scope: Ensure they cover infrastructure costs.
Better Community Information
Scope: Need a way to organize and disseminate CEDAC information. Need a brand.
Scope: Lots of study no action. “If you don’t drive you are stuck.”
Scope: CEDAC topics should be cross referenced, with budgetary issues noted.
Other topics brought up during the discussion include: seniors, quality of life, sign ordinance, water/sewer/power, education, cityhood, full-blown website and endowment.
Representatives from Camino, Lotus, Placerville and Shingle springs were present to observe and learn before undertaking their own visioning exercises. The meeting was videotaped, and is available in its entirety on YouTube. A link as been posted on the group’s website, CEDAC-EDH.org.