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Calaveras Housing Plan Put On Hold

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Despite a staff recommendation to approve the draft housing element of the county´s general plan, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors decided to delay its decision for two weeks.

During a public hearing on the plan Monday the board voted to have planning staff members return Sept. 22 with a list of recommendations that the board can more clearly develop a consensus on.

In addition, Supervisor Tom Tryon said he would like to provide an opportunity to Supervisor Paul Stein to comment on the plan since he was not in attendance at Monday´s meeting.

The element looks at the county´s housing needs and ways to address them through 2007. The 2003 Housing Element, based on extensive statistical reporting, concludes with policy proposals for the next several years. Among the policies proposed are:

· Developments in excess of 10 units must address housing needs of lower-income citizens.

· Identify a site near San Andreas for an emergency homeless shelter.

· Create a new position within the County Administration Office to manage housing economic grants and a low-income housing development program.

· Amend the county zoning code to include density bonuses.

The subject of much contention was the staff´s latest proposal that would require developers to provide “direct construction” of low-income houses or contribute to an overall program.

Supervisor Tom Tryon opposed direct construction but said he is for “extorting” money from developers if it were in the form of a building fee that applies to any person seeking to develop.

The Planning Commission, which heard the draft plan in late August, recommended the board look at a part of the plan that said, “Developments in excess of 10 units must address housing needs of lower-income citizens.”

“The number 10 should become any and all,” Planning Commissioner Mike Dell´Orto said.

“It´s an important issue; everyone should pay,” Dell´Orto said.

Developer Jon Ellis gave public comment and asked, “Where does it say that developers are responsible for the lack of affordable housing?”

“I don´t have to do anything if it doesn´t make economic sense for me,” Ellis said.

Realtors Lisa and Tim Muertterties came to the public hearing and gave testimony on the behalf of the Calaveras County Association of Realtors.

The Muertterties claimed the numbers presented in the housing plan are inaccurate.

Construction costs and home prices are not current, Lisa said.

To supply homes for seasonal employees year round, Kautz And Bear Valley should come up with a shared plan due to their opposite seasons, Tim said.

The government shouldn´t have to subsidize whether or not employers provide housing for their employees, Tryon said. “They can either provide housing or pay their employees more.”

The board and staff agreed areas of affordable housing should be scattered.

“I´m concerned that areas would be developed that look worse than current areas and give rise to work for Code Compliance Department,” Supervisor Victoria Erickson said.

“When you try to cluster, you create ghettos,” Robert Sellman, planning department deputy director, said.

Tryon called the housing plan a politically expedient solution by the way it transfers the burden of housing to new construction. “We need to come up with a much broader base.”

State law requires the county to update the element every five years.

“A plan needs to be adopted by the end of the year,” Sellman said.

The law also requires the draft plan to be sent to the State Department of Housing and Community Development for certification prior to adoption.

Grant funding to address housing needs is dependent on a current certified housing element, Sellman said.

Today, the county has 22,946 housing “units”– everything from detached homes to apartments and mobilehomes. Between 2000 and 2007, based on state studies, Calaveras will need to have built another 3,289 units, mostly to accommodate a surging population.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news,