Improving the Planning and Permit Process
Wednesday, September 11, 2002, 7:30
|Remodeling the Planning Dept.
Red Tags and Red Tape
"Adoption of the original Bonny Doon General Plan in 1960 represented a
"Over the years, the RBDA has been concerned with the development and implementation of the Bonny Doon General Plan..."
Who You Gonna Call??
When proposals such as metering of new wells come along, there are howls from residents who see it as an infringement on their property rights. The county’s attempt to pass a road grading ordinance was hotly debated for months before dying at the August 20 supes’ meeting. But when your neighbor starts building her horse barn closer to your house than hers, or you really hate that ugly new fence your neighbor put up and it looks a little too high, what should you do?
Talk to them about it, of course, but when that doesn’t solve the problem, some people turn to the county and file a complaint with the Code Enforcement division of the Planning Dept. The rules allow that complainant to remain anonymous, and the County is required to investigate. What will happen? In the past such complaints have led to a quagmire of investigation that smothers the recipient, and ties up Planning staff time dealing with neighbors’ disputes, which in turn delays attention to serious violations that have health and safety implications or off-site impacts.
The rules are changing. Staff suggested that the complainant who was using the County to harass his neighbor over a minor infraction would no longer remain anonymous and would instead be urged to enter into a mediation process before the complaint would be accepted. The Supervisors did not go along with the idea. They did however, approve the development of a non-enforcement policy for any structure that has existed prior to 1980. That may not help where there is a "use" violation, and sorting out these historic uses can be a difficult problem, as at the much-loved train facilities and picnic grounds at Swanton Pacific Ranch, which was papered with red tags earlier this year. The Board of Supervisors will visit the red tag issue again at their Sept. 17 meeting.
Affordable Housing Needed
The county is expected to enforce building codes, but the county’s efforts to clean up the illegal second units are being considered in the context of expanding the supply of affordable housing. Students and middle-to-low income residents clamor for housing and rental income is vital for many homeowners who add a rental unit to supplement fixed incomes or underfunded retirements. The State is pressuring the County to provide more housing, and legitimizing these units would help to satisfy state requirements. But with State mandated growth comes the need to consider the massive infrastructure costs for roads, services and water. Into the thick of these difficult problems in 1997 came Planning director Alvin James, our featured speaker at the Sept. 11 RBDA meeting.
A year ago James presented the supes with his Fiscal Year 2001-2002 Work Program. Topping the list of new projects was the development of a timetable for updating the 1994 General Plan/Local Coastal Plan. When that process begins it will be a new opportunity for area residents to examine the guidelines that have kept Bonny Doon rural and natural.
"We owe it to the generations that follow us, to preserve for them the beauty
Leave the Heat at Home
Many of us have experienced frustration in our dealings with the Planning Dept., which is why the Board of Supervisors has repeatedly in recent years called on the department to improve its building permit process. And though it has a long way to go, it has improved.
At the Sept. 11 RBDA meeting, Planning Dept. Director Alvin James will discuss more contemplated improvements.
This is an opportunity for us to learn firsthand about what James and supervisors have in mind, and ask questions about the upcoming General Plan review and other policy matters. It is not an occasion to air personal grievances or anguished tales of our own building permit application experiences.
Commercial Stable Headed for Permit Hearing
A public hearing is finally expected in October on the permits applied for by Vigne Farms, a 50-horse facility on 79 acres just south of the Bonny Doon Vineyards tasting room.
The commercial stable has been in limited operation since it was red-tagged 2 years ago. Judge Robert Yonts allowed the boarding of up to 25 horses until Vigne gets its permits.
The stable’s owner, Amie Van Dine, has now supplied the Planning Department’s staff with all the information needed to process her application for Coastal, Commercial Development and Grading permits. Van Dine leases the land from the Soper-Wheeler company, which uses it for timber production.
New Rules for Board Elections
The new RBDA Bylaws passed in May change the way members vote and are elected to the RBDA Executive Board.
The election still takes place in January at the Annual Meeting, but nominations are made at the November meeting. No further nominations are permitted at the January meeting.
Nominees must be members in good standing as of November 1. The new bylaws state that "Membership shall become effective thirty (30) days after the Association receives a complete application and dues." This means that the Membership Coordinator must receive the member’s application and dues by October 2 in order for the member to be eligible to run for the board. If your membership has lapsed you have a grace period of thirty (30) days to reinstate the membership. So if your membership expires on September 1 you have until October 1 for the Membership Coordinator to receive your dues if you want to run for the Executive Board.
The new bylaws allow absentee ballots, which previously were not permitted. Members can get an absentee ballot by sending the Membership Coordinator a signed request and by December 15.
Second Unit Suit Falters Again
The suit to overturn the provisions of the county’s "second unit" ordinance has been rejected again, this time by a panel of state Appeals Court judges. By a 2 to 1 vote in late July, the judges of the 6th District in San Jose kicked out the suit on the grounds that it wasn’t filed within the required 90 days of the ordinance’s passage.
The three Santa Cruz property owners filing the suit, who are largely doing their own legal work, claim the ordinance violates various state laws by controlling rents and requiring that the units be occupied only by close family members or people who qualify for "affordable housing." Without the restrictions, there would be little justification for allowing second units on properties zoned for single family dwellings. The ordinance’s purpose is to ease the local housing crunch for families of moderate means, and at the same time legalize (i.e., collect property taxes on) the many illegal homes scattered around the county.
Agenda for the RBDA General Meeting
1. Approval of Minutes of May 10, 2002 General Meeting
Summary of minutes of RBDA Executive Board Meeting
1. Minutes of Executive Board Meeting of June 14, 2002 revised and adopted.
RMC Plant Expansion - Cast in Concrete?
Responding to requests from concerned residents of Davenport, Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt has gotten the Board of Supervisors to review the County Zoning Administrator’s approval of RMC Pacific Materials’ request to increase production at its cement plant by about 12% every year. Usually, RMC, which owns and operates the Davenport factory (and shale and limestone quarries in Bonny Doon) usually seeks permission each year to increase output for that year alone by about 5%. This time, the company asked not only to increase production for years to come, but for a much larger increase.
The unusual request took the plant’s neighbors by surprise, and left them little time to gather information and present their own concerns. With every production increase, the cumulative impact of more cement trucks and trains grows. According to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this is supposed to be considered, so that a developer doesn’t divide a large project into many small ones in order to minimize the total impact on neighborhoods, resources and the environment.
The limestone quarry on which the cement plant depends is known to be rapidly depleting, and RMC’s application to expand it was held up earlier this year pending an environmental impact report (EIR) on its effects, especially in regard to the City of Santa Cruz’s Liddell Springs water supply. The EIR could take years to complete.
So why did RMC ask for such a large ongoing production expansion? We’d like to know. Hopefully, the reasons will become clear when the supervisors review the application. The hearing date has not yet been announced, but should be at one of the supervisors’ September meetings.
New Deputy for Bonny Doon
In late August, Deputy Marty Eryavec succeeded Deputy Stefan Fish as the new law enforcement officer for the North Coast community. Deputy Fish, who has a new assignment as a training officer, did a terrific job of getting to know Bonny Doon and Davenport and responding to our concerns. He will be missed.
Budget constraints have kept the Sheriff’s Department from assigning
an officer full-time to the North Coast except in the summer, when the
larger number of incidents along the beaches justify it.
Deputy Fish will introduce Deputy Eryavec to the community at the Sept.
11 RBDA meeting.
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