Court orders the Board of Supervisors to properly address fire safety and groundwater quality.

In a writ of mandate issued on July 25, 2018, Judge Warren Stracener of the El Dorado County Superior Court ordered the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to properly highlight their disagreement with the Board of Forestry regarding the inadequate attention to fire safety in the 2015 Targeted General Plan Amendment and Zoning Ordinance Update.  The judge also directed the Board of Supervisors to properly respond to a public comment raising concerns over the groundwater quality impacts of home occupations discharging dangerous chemicals into septic systems in groundwater-dependent rural areas.

In a September 17th board hearing under a consent item that did not invite public discussion, County counsel made light of the requirement to revisit fire safety and groundwater impacts that would result from those zoning changes, and it is unclear if there will be any further discussion or any mitigations offered.  To be clear, the Board of Forestry’s 2014 letter expressed concern about expanding development in the high and very high fire hazard severity zones that dominate the County’s rangelands and forestlands, stating plainly “..that fire safety is not addressed adequately for the proposed increase in allowable densities” and that “This proposed TGPA-ZOU exposes people or structures to a significant risk of loss, injury, or death from wildland fires.”  The County disagreed with the Board of Forestry.

The judge ruled that the County failed in its obligation to highlight this disagreement with the Board of Forestry within the main body of the Environmental Impact Report, such that concerned citizens and decision makers would be made aware of the dispute and be allowed meaningful comment.

In an attempt to respond to the writ, the County issued a draft addendum in September that included no explanation of its true purpose, nor effort to reduce the fire risk or the potential for groundwater contamination.

What can you do to help?  Email the Planning Commission (charlene.tim@edcgov.us) and the Board of Supervisors (edc.cob@edcgov.us ) and tell them to monitor groundwater where rural commercial development and home occupations are disposing of chemicals in septic systems, and to limit rural commercial developments and home occupations to properties served by paved roads, public water, and nearby fire stations.

Additionally, RCU has filed a Notice of Appeal for California’s appellate court to review a limited number of equally important issues not prevailed upon in Superior Court.  Watch for problematic developments that are proceeding under the 2015 TGPA/ZOU approval, as they may be impacted by this appeal.

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