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 (email@example.com) and the Board of Supervisors (firstname.lastname@example.org ) 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. [UPDATE: This appeal was withdrawn along with the County’s counter-appeal in July 2019.]
On April 25th, the TGPA/ZOU case was heard in court, and the final decision released late May. Things did not go as we’d hoped for RCU, and many primary issues were lost.
The ‘wins’ involve denunciation of the expanded uses into forested areas, impacts of infill and the Home Occupation Ordinance on water quality, impacts from development on slopes over 30%, and impacts on wildlife from development around Bass Lake. Each of these overturns sections of the Environmental Impact Report and requires a rewrite prior to proceeding with development that is dependent upon those particular policy changes.
While you may be disheartened by groups out there running victory laps, please know that our losses should not be considered as vindication that what this county did in rezoning over 37,000 parcels was ‘okay’. The court’s ruling was riddled with phrases that point to procedural errors, indicating that the facts of our case have not been fully heard.
As our group discusses the many factors that go into a possible appeal, pay attention to the development projects that pop up around you, and challenge those where poor discretionary decisions are being made. This case highlights the importance of the Supervisorial position, so vote accordingly, and HOLD YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE.
The El Dorado County Superior Court will hold a public hearing at the Cameron Park Court House on Monday 4/25 at AM.8:30. This is the hearing for the RCU case against El Dorado County and their General Plan amendment and zoning ordinance update (TGPA/ZOU).
On 1/5/2018, RCU filed it’s Response brief in our legal action against the County’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance update (TGPA/ZOU). The court date for the Judge’s ruling on this case is 3/19 in the courtroom at Cameron Park. The brief can be found at: open-id=14FRPSyNOAnd4xQmNO5pitrMn9pl9Dl9n To view the brief with links to citations, download all seven files from this folder.