Saturday, January 19, 2008

General plan land use alternatives released

Update January 24: Because of the bad weather, the next General Plan Advisory Committee meeting will be held on Thursday February 21, not tonight.

At Thursday’s General Plan Advisory Committee meeting, the committee and the public will get a chance to look at and perhaps discuss the three land use alternatives (with one “bonus” development) proposed for our new general plan. (There will definitely be discussion at future meetings.)

The county Planning Department recently published three alternative land use maps for the general plan update. The maps come with a workbook that explains the proposed alternatives, land use classifications, and so forth. As the county moves forward with the plan update, it may choose one of these alternatives, combine features from them, or come up with something entirely new.

The workbook begins with assumptions about future population growth that drive the alternative and refers to two sources: the California Department of Finance and the Amador Water Agency.

The Department of Finance expects the county's population to grow to 54,788 by 2030, an increase of 55 percent from 2000, or about 1.8 percent per year. The workbook says that at this rate – and if development trends continue as they have since 2000 -- about 7,000 of the new residents would live in the county's unincorporated area.

The Amador Water Agency’s high growth rate estimate is about 2.9 percent per year. That's a far cry from the Department of Finance 1.8 percent – and results in a projected difference of more than 8,000 additional residents in the unincorporated area by 2030 (7,000+ vs. 15,000+).

The Department of Finance employs professional demographers and is considered the state’s “single official source of demographic data for state planning and budgeting.” The Amador Water Agency is a public utility with no documented track record in estimating population growth.

For the general plan land use element, the county and its consultants picked a growth rate between the AWA and DOF figures. Then they mapped the county to accommodate that growth.

The result? Each of the three alternatives allows for about 11,850 new residents in the unincorporated area of the county. The difference between the alternatives is where most of the growth would occur – in rural areas or town centers.

There’s a variation on one alternative that includes development of the Howard Ranch outside Ione – now being called by its historic name, Rancho Arroyo Seco. The projected population of that one “planned community”? More than 32,000 people – nearly as many people as live in our entire county today. You can see the map of that land here.

If any of this concerns you, it’s time to get involved. The next General Plan Advisory Committee meeting, open to the public, is at the County Administrative Center on Thursday night, January 24, at 6 p.m.

General plans are required and governed by state law. To see what the state says ought to be in the general plan, check out the state General Plan Guidelines.

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