Monterey County has been waiting for a general plan update for a long time. The current draft, also known as General Plan Update Number Five (GPU 5), is getting closer to reaching the Board of Supervisors. Recently the County extended the deadline for the public comment period for GPU5’s draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the third time. The original deadline was October 20. It was extended to October 27, extended again to November 18th, and most recently it was extended to December 2nd. It appears likely to be extended again.
The deadline has been extended because members of the public have complained that many of the documents cited in the DEIR were not made publicly available. This extension allows for greater public participation. Clearly the County is being responsive and making sure that the public has adequate time to review this important document and comment.
The Planning Commission will hold at least one public meeting to talk about the DEIR, before the comment period ends. A week or so after the public comment period ends, the Planning Commission will hold another public meeting (or perhaps several meetings) to respond to comments and give their advice and direction to staff for the preparation of a final environmental impact report (FEIR). This document will be the County’s official response to public comments and questions concerning the DEIR. After the publication of the FEIR, the Planning Commission will hold at least one public meeting to respond to the FEIR and recommend to the Board of Supervisors whether or not to certify the FEIR. The Planning Commission will also make their recommendations concerning the language of GPU5.
Once the deadline for public comments has been established, the planning department will publish a draft calendar for these meetings of the Planning Commission and they will also publish the dates for the public hearings to be held by the Board of Supervisors. The entire process is likely to stretch out through March 2009 or perhaps longer.
LandWatch remains cautiously optimistic about the adoption of GPU5. In its current form, GPU5 represents significant progress toward the compromise the Board of Supervisors promised voters after the stalemated election of June 2007. Here are the enforceable policy gains in the current draft:
- A specific and responsible cap on further subdivisions in Carmel Valley.
- No further subdivision in the entire North County (non Coastal) Planning Area.
- A provision that absolutely limits subdivision in the area just north of Salinas to Butterfly Village and puts an end to the larger Rancho San Juan Project.
- No further subdivision in the Toro Planning Area along Highway 68.
- No further subdivision of agricultural land (of state-wide importance as mapped by the state) for non-agricultural purposes in the Salinas Valley and throughout the entire county.
For the last several months LandWatch has been hard at work evaluating the DEIR and we anticipate that the LW comment letter will be in excess of 100 pages long.
Although the current language of GPU5 is very good, LandWatch hopes that the plan can still be improved before it is adopted. And our comments on the DEIR will be important to make the case for these additional changes.
Our major concern relates to the protection of steep slopes. For decades Monterey County has maintained a slope ordinance that prohibits new cultivation of slopes of 25% or steeper. The current language in GPU5 eliminates that definitive prohibition everywhere EXCEPT Carmel Valley, where the prohibition has been maintained in GPU5.
New cultivation on steep slopes has dangerous implications for the areas outside Carmel Valley. Cultivation on steep slopes causes erosion and threatens water quality and wildlife corridors. LandWatch hopes that an outright prohibition can be included in the General Plan and our comments on the EIR will bear this out.
If you would like to see the DEIR for GPU5, you can click on the link below.