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.

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