The Alpine County Community Development Department recently released two related documents that address proposed changes in the county general plan. They are draft amendments to the land use element of the plan and the accompanying initial study of the possible environmental impacts of those amendments.
The county is seeking public comments on the material in those documents by Dec. 3, following which the county planning commission will hold a public hearing on 6 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Turtle Rock Park community building.
The proposed amendments to the general plan are to add specific policies and standards to the existing policies relating to growth management.
The topics include: protection of wildlife habitat; scenic highway corridors; avalanche zones, seismic fault areas, and 100-year flood plains; proximity of proposed development to existing residential or commercial zones; retention of agriculture and timber production lands; underground utilities; necessary standards of public service; retention of community character; and rate of growth.
The necessary standards of public service include such matters as police and fire protection, water supply, sewage disposal provisions, and road capacity. Proposals for changes in the existing general plan land uses or for changes in the zoning, and for proposed subdivisions would be required to meet those standards, in addition to other identified concerns, in order to be approved.
One particular standard not yet included in the existing plan is a specified rate of water flow for fire protection that would be required for subdivisions. Now you may think that such issues are already being addressed when a subdivision is considered for approval and you'd be correct.
The planning commission and county staff consider such matters, but the specific requirements haven't yet been incorporated in the county's general plan or its ordinances.
So there shouldn't be anything controversial about those standards, you say. Well, probably not, except possibly for the fire flow requirements.
You see, not many subdivisions on the eastern portion of the county have been required to meet such fire flow standards in the past, and there is no network of water supply systems now in lands currently zoned for residential use.
Considering the growing losses of homes in the west due to wildfire in the past few years, though, the county planning people feel such requirements are overdue.
Now there are a couple of features in these proposed amendments that are particularly interesting.
One is that land use changes would have to be shown to be compatible with and not have a significant adverse effect upon existing community character. And what is the existing community character? That's described in the proposed plan amendments.
Read it, you'll like it. It was an ambitious undertaking, but it's very well done. Perhaps the feature that will draw the most attention is the proposal to regulate the rate of growth.
Just how that would be done is to be covered in a related ordinance and can be described briefly this way: On the east side of the county, no more than 48 new subdivision lots could be created in any given year.
This is an unusual approach and not at all like the growth controls established for Douglas County or at Lake Tahoe. That ordinance would be subject to separate public hearings in the future.
Those who are interested in obtaining the proposed general plan amendments and the environmental document can purchase them from the Community Development Department, 50 Diamond Valley Road, Woodfords, CA, 96120, at 25 cents a page. They can also be viewed at that department, or at the Alpine County Library, or at the county clerk's office. They can also be viewed at the following Web site: www.alpinecountyca.com/departments/planning/environmental-review.