Thursday, April 3, 2003
While Monterey County gears up for the next round of General Plan debates, a new group of educators, business owners and activists has asked the Board of Supervisors to complete the plan and stick to its "Guiding Objectives"-strong recommendations to build affordable housing, protect clean air, water and farmland, and preserve ranching and agriculture. And this time, they''ve got Fred Keeley and Julie Packard on their side.
"We''re at a point where there will be another round of dialogue," says The Nature Conservancy''s Bill Leahy. "It''s really important to stay the course, and to recognize that generally everyone supports these guiding objectives. Let''s not lose sight of that."
Leahy''s a member of the new group, called the Coalition to Protect Housing, Farmlands, Air & Water. Its name is self-explanatory, and its membership reads like a diverse Monterey County Who''s Who: the Ad Hoc Water Committee''s Carolyn Anderson, the Big Sur Land Trust''s board president Kent Evans, River Road rancher and farmer Stan Corda, Keehn Construction''s Chris Keehn, firefighter and teacher Rod McMahan, former Natividad Medical Center CEO Howard Classen, Líderes Communitarios de Salinas'' Lidia Rodríguez and the Haute Enchilada''s Kim Solano, among others.
It also includes homeowners, architects, and environmentalists. But two names in particular jump off the page: Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, and Fred Keeley, former Speaker Pro Tem of the state Assembly and the new executive director of the Planning and Conservation League Foundation.
And although the Farm Bureau and some land-use attorneys have urged the Supes to scrap the plan altogether, Leahy and other Coalition members say that bringing out the Big Guns-like Packard and Keeley-doesn''t mean the plan''s under attack.
"You have to do that sometimes in order to be effective," said Carolyn Anderson, when asked about Packard and Keeley''s involvement. "It''s more or less a grass-roots effort. We''re just trying to let the public know that there are some good things in the plan. It''s provides housing and city-centered growth and protects farmland and the visually beautiful character of Monterey County."
According to Keeley, in the upcoming weeks the Coalition will meet with community leaders and the Board of Supervisors to lobby for the plan''s Guiding Objectives, to ask policy makers to continue their efforts and to complete the work on the plan as quickly as possible.
"Public opinion research conducted recently found that eight out of 10 Monterey County residents want a General Plan Update to contain strong protections for clean air, water and other natural resources," Keeley said, in a letter supporting the Coalition. "This research also indicated a strong public recognition that Monterey County''s economy depends directly on the continued health and productivity of agricultural and ranching business, and a desire to avoid conversion of farmlands to non-agricultural uses. The Coalition seeks a plan that reflects these public priorities, as set forward in the Guiding Objectives currently contained in the draft Plan."
Keeley''s referring to a study conducted by the firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, and commissioned by The Nature Conservancy last September, which showed that 80 percent of respondents want the county''s new General Plan Update to focus development in urban areas, promote affordable housing and protect natural resources, among other things.
Later this month, the Supes will see a revised version of the General Plan Update. At the April 29 meeting, the Board is expected to set some sort of timeline for the growth plan, and to direct county staffers to move forward with the environmental impact report. Both of these documents will be subject to additional public review and approval by the Supervisors.
For more information about the Coalition to Protect Housing, Farmlands, Air & Water, check out www.8of10monterey.com.