Thursday, August 17, 2006
The insanity starts on Thursday. At 1pm, Aug. 16, the Monterey County Planning Commission will hold its first meeting on the latest draft of the General Plan. At this workshop, they’ll discuss important sections of the growth document—including land use, housing and economic development—and the corresponding pieces of the General Plan’s draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The problem is: When the commissioners convene on Aug. 16, not a one of them will have seen the EIR. In fact, no one will have had a chance to review this document, because it won’t be released until Aug. 18.
So begins the fourth round of public hearings on the hotly debated plan, now six years in the making.
The general plan is a land use Constitution, of sorts, for Monterey County, determining where and how the county will grow through 2020.
Last week, the Planning Commission scheduled a series of workshops to review all of the plan’s sections, or “elements,” which deal with issues from agriculture to open space and public services. This review process is arguably the most important project the commission will undertake. After reviewing each element, the commission will make recommendations to the County Supervisors.
But they don’t have much time. The Supes set an October deadline for the commission to finish its review.
During previous attempts to finalize the document, the commission has spent hundreds of hours studying and debating the General Plan, only to have it thrown out by the County Supervisors.
As a whole, the Planning Commission is a thoughtful and studious bunch. Commissioners take their jobs seriously, reviewing stacks of paperwork and visiting development sites before voting. They’re the type of people who ask staff to schedule extra General Plan meetings (read: more work; same pay).
So, for obvious reasons, some Commissioners sounded a little bit peeved at the Aug. 9 meeting.
Commissioner Jay Brown is a GPU hearing virgin—at least from the panel’s side of the podium. As a member of the Cattlemen’s Association, and the pro-growth Refinement Committee, he was a frequent attendee during the most recent failed round, advocating for axing GPU3.
At the meeting, Brown asked Alana Knaster, deputy director of the County’s Resource Management Agency, to explain how the draft EIR would be released on Aug. 18 but the first workshop would happen on Aug. 16.
Knaster assured Brown and the rest of the commission that they would have some information from the EIR at the Aug. 16 meeting. “Powerpoint, with the relevant elements,” Knaster said.
This didn’t seem to sit very well with Commissioner Martha Diehl, who has sat on the panel for the past six years and reviewed the last three General Plan attempts.
“I don’t think that fast,” she said. “I need to be able to read the EIR, think about it, and put that in context with the elements we are discussing.”
She suggested that the commission convene on Aug. 16 but make their recommendations at a later date, once they’ve had a chance to review the EIR.
Diehl and other commissioners also asked staff to schedule additional meeting dates and times, including some evening hearings.