Have you started reading the long-anticipated draft General Plan that was released on Dec. 18? If not, you’d better get to it, because you only have 90 days to comment on the latest iteration of Calaveras County’s blueprint for the future. Though it’s not officially part of the draft General Plan, I began with the Community Plan Policy Cross Reference, because as the Cover Memo says, “One of the most controversial and complex aspects of this draft plan was dealing with the desire of many in the community to incorporate existing and proposed community plans.”

Community plans and special plans, such as the Rancho Calaveras Special Plan, have not been incorporated into the draft General Plan – so much for desire. All former Special/Community Plan Areas have been designated on the draft Land Use Map as simply “Community Areas.” In an email exchange, Planning Director Peter Maurer said community plans “that were adopted by the county in the past remain effective until a new General Plan is adopted, then, unless the board decides to include community and/or special plans, they would be rescinded and the new plan would govern.”

At the end of the comment period in March, the Board of Supervisors may make any changes to the plan that they deem necessary or appropriate, so this is your opportunity to buttonhole your supervisor and let him or her know how you feel about the treatment of community and special plans. But they’re all first-termers, so how accountable can they be? We’ve been on this torturous General Plan journey since 2006, and the lack of institutional memory on the board is problematic.

I spoke with newly seated Supervisor Steve Kearney, whose district includes Rancho Calaveras. As supervisor, Kearney will advocate for including the Rancho Calaveras Special Plan in the new General Plan. He supported the inclusion of the Rancho Plan throughout his campaign, and he knows his constituents will be upset that the plan is excluded. Kearney said, “There’s an opportunity to change things going forward.” Unfortunately, Kearney, like many Rancho residents, has been under the mistaken impression that special plans have greater standing than community plans.

Way back in 2006, the General Plan Evaluation prepared by Mintier & Associates told us that special plans have the “same status as community plans/area plans under state law.” In Kearney’s defense, many people confuse special plans with specific plans. Though specific plans are not part of the General Plan, the two in Copperopolis, Oak Canyon Ranch and Saddle Creek, are included in the list of documents that will, along with the draft General Plan, “guide or regulate land uses” in Calaveras County.

Kearney’s advocacy for the Rancho Special Plan could create problems. If one plan is in, are they all in? If our supervisors begin cherry-picking which community/special plans are included or excluded, it may not sit well with the populace, especially those of us who worked long and hard on community planning efforts with the expectation that our community plans would be included in the General Plan, as had been promised.

Though the community plans are not in the draft General Plan, all former Community Plan Area boundaries have been changed. They’ve been shrunk, because staff determined “the community plan boundaries went well beyond the area that is part of that specific community,” and that while “people living within those areas might identify with a community, they don’t necessarily live within it.” It remains to be seen how popular these new boundaries will be.

What community and special plan area residents have been offered is the Community Plan Policy Cross Reference, which is a pacifier that supposedly “identifies where each community plan policy is covered by a General Plan policy” according to staff’s interpretation of the intent of the community/special plan policy.

Copies of the various com-munity/special plans are not attached to the cross-reference. There isn’t even a bibliography. Maurer assures me he is “working now to have those (community/special plans) available on our website. Those that were previously formally adopted are already available, but the draft plans that were in different stages of development are not presently available. They will be soon.” I hope soon means within the 90-day comment period.

I focused on Valley Springs in the cross-reference, because that’s the community with which I identify and for which I planned. I looked at each community plan goal or policy, its corresponding community plan subject, and, finally, the General Plan counterpart. This was a tedious job. The document is not what I would describe as user-friendly, and I found staff’s interpretation of intent and my own were not always consistent.

Actually, my first challenge in using the cross-reference had been to figure out exactly which of three community plans was being used for Valley Springs. Look for the second part of this column in the next issue of the Enterprise for the answer.

Muriel Zeller is a poet, writer and Valley Springs resident. Contact her at murielzeller-52@gmail.com.

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