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TC Supervisors To Make Minor Changes To Lot Size Requirements

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Sonora, CA — At today’s Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting there was a debate about changing the minimum size requirements for parcels of land zoned R-1 from the current 7,500 square feet down to as low as 5,000 square feet.

The proposal was recommended by the county’s Housing Policy Committee as a way to make it easier and cost-effective for developers, or just existing small private land owners, to add housing inventory.

A presentation in support was led by Brad Vondrak with the Tuolumne County Association of Realtors, Mike Lemke with the Tuolumne County Building Industry, and Ron Kopf of the Tuolumne County Business Council. It was noted that the committee identified the current minimum parcel size requirements as the biggest constraint to housing development in the county. 5,000 square feet was the desired change by the committee, but it was added that even 6,000 square feet would be beneficial, and put Tuolumne in line with many neighboring counties.

Because the current Tuolumne County General Plan approved in 2019 is going by the 7,500 square feet figure, Community Development Director Quincy Yaley voiced a warning to the supervisors that significant changes would spur new environmental studies.  She stated the supervisors could legally drop it to 7,260 square feet under the existing General Plan, but if the board wants to go lower, the environmental review process would cost the county an estimated $250,000. More studies would be needed in relation to things like population growth estimates and their impacts.

Acknowledging the additional steps it would require, Supervisors Jaron Brandon and Anaiah Kirk were the only two willing to move forward now with a minimum of either 5,000 or 6,000 square feet. Brandon argued, “We are in a housing crisis, and it is multifaceted. This is one of the things within our control that we are able to change.”

He continued, “If the price is $250,000, and if it increases the number of homes by 5-10 percent, it is a good use of money.”

Supervisors David Goldemberg and Kathleen Haff also both voiced openness to dropping it down to as low as 5,000 square feet, but were concerned about the timing, in relation to things like unbudgeted costs and the existing work priorities already underway in the Community Development Department. Moving forward on a big change would take staff away from other tasks. Supervisor Ryan Campbell stated similar concerns.

In the end, all five members were in support of the concept of dropping it to 7,260 square feet, which was the “low-hanging fruit.” Additional discussions about going further could come at some point down the road.

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