Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gridlock doesn't care about class

There's an advertisement lurking as an op-ed in Friday's Amador Ledger Dispatch. A local person employed by New Faze Development to promote its environmentally destructive Jackson Hills subdivision argues for the project because it's "classy."

And she says that if Jackson Hills isn't built, some other development -- something far worse, in her opinion -- could be built on the site.

That's interesting logic: If the city doesn't approve this bad project, a worse one might come along? Wow.

Of course, the land could also stay a cattle pasture. Maybe even an irrigated one.

One of the biggest problems with Jackson Hills is that it will create gridlock in south Jackson (the word traffic doesn't appear in the "advertorial"). I don't know about you, but the last time I was stuck in traffic, it really made no difference to me whether the cars were shiny, late-model Beemers or beat-up older cars and trucks. And if ambulances can't get through a traffic jam on their way to the Sutter Amador ER, is that OK provided the cars in the way are nice and expensive?

Gridlock is an equal-opportunity impact that pays no attention to so-called class.

Who says traffic will be a problem? None other than Charles Field, Executive Director of the Amador County Transportation Commission, the county's resident traffic experts. As reported earlier this week in the Ledger article about Monday's council meeting, "Field repeated concerns that if Jackson Hills is built as planned, serious traffic congestion may aggravate already overburdened streets and roads."

The New Faze author also argues that Jackson Hills will "pay millions in developer fees that will benefit Jackson, Amador County, the school district and the Amador Water Agency."

What she fails to note is that under state law, developer fees can only cover the cost of a development's impacts on local government. They don't "benefit" government or taxpayers, they just cover the cost of providing capital improvements to the project. And often they don't even do that. Impact fees definitely don't cover school construction costs.

In closing, the author calls Jackson Hills "innovative." If Jackson Hills is innovative, I'm a right-wing Republican. Jackson Hills is a formulaic, suburban golf-course subdivision designed to attract affluent people in a certain demographic who are fleeing urban areas with equity from their homes for the comfort of gates and golf.

The odds of it becoming the social, economic and fiscal salvation of Jackson are slim to none.

Shame on the Ledger for allowing a developer to run an ad like this for free.

Friday, July 13, 2007

McCutcheon tix available in advance

While tickets for the McCutcheon concert/Wilensky fundraiser were originally announced as being available only at the door, you can buy them in advance online or at

Aeolian Harp, Angels Camp
Jackson Family Sports, Jackson
Sam Snead Real Estate, West Point

Don't miss the show!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Don't miss John McCutcheon in Mokelumne Hill

Storytelling musician-activist John McCutcheon will perform in the wonderful little town of Mokelumne Hill on Saturday, July 21.

The show, a benefit for Citizens for (Steve) Wilensky, will be at the Mokelumne Hill Community Hall at 7:30. Tickets are $25 at the door.

John's an amazing musician, and Steve -- the Calaveras County District 2 Supervisor -- is a remarkable politician. They're two of the finest people I know: smart, caring, compassionate, talented, and hard-working.

This promises to be an incredibly special evening. Be there!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sitting at home is not a good option

For years, some of us tried to explain what is patently obvious in Amador County now: left to its own devices, growth can destroy the things we love most about this special place.

Without good planning, we said, our home county could turn into all of those places we point to for their terrible traffic, bad air quality, ugly strip development, and land-consuming rural sprawl -- places where scenic vistas, working ranches, farms, and historic sites are written about in past tense.

We were often written off as alarmist socialist tree-huggers.

But with the "anywhere USA," traffic-jamming, suck-the sales-tax-from-the-cities commercial development of Martell and same-old, same-old sprawling, water-wasting golf course subdivisions proposed around our historic towns, most people "get it" now. As a result, more people than ever are getting involved in local planning issues and promoting smart growth.

At the same time, a certain amount of fatalism remains. Some believe that nothing can be done. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you think nothing can be done and don't act, guess what? The powers of growth and development will prevail, just as they have in all of those other places where money talks and people are "too busy" to get involved.

But if we join together and claim this county as our own -- not the province of developers -- we can shape its future. Right now, residents of Jackson who want to avoid sprawl and would like to see ranching continue around the town would do well to contact their city council members about the Jackson Hills golf course subdivision and show up when the council discusses the proposal on Monday, July 9.

Jackson Hills is the wrong project, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The EIR details more significant environmental impacts than any project I've ever seen proposed in Amador.

Jackson Hills will threaten the operation of the Plasse and Busi ranches, destroy oak woodlands, waste an incredible amount of water, and create gridlock in south Jackson. It will provide homes for affluent equity-amenity refugees, not people who live and work in Jackson.

The Jackson Planning Commission did the right thing when it voted against Jackson Hills.

Those who will profit from this development -- realtors, business owners, golfers, builders -- have joined together to support it. They are letting Jackson officials know what they think.

Those of us who will suffer, not profit from the project need to do the same. If you care about Jackson, traffic, ranching, oaks, smart use of water, and housing working people can afford, be sure to let Jackson officials know.

It's your town and your county. So take it back -- before we lose it for good.