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Calaveras Supes Face Advocacy Group Lawsuit

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San Andreas, CA – Another Mother Lode county is facing an advocacy group lawsuit over its recently passed General Plan Update (GPU).

In a letter dated Nov. 30 that Calaveras Planning Coalition (CPC) facilitator and attorney Tom Infusino said was sent to the Calaveras County Clerk’s and Counsel’s offices, the group officially notified the Board of Supervisors of its intent to file a CEQA petition against it and the county over the GPU, which the supervisors passed on Nov. 12. The document is intended to serve as a constitution and roadmap for local planning and development.

CPC made a copy of the letter available to Clarke Broadcasting on Tuesday. Earlier that day, District 2 Supervisor and Board Chair Jack Garamendi indicated that word of the filing was news to him.

Since he had not reviewed the CPC letter, Garamendi said he could not specifically comment other than by saying he stands by the GPU that the board, Planning Commission and county staff “worked so hard to get done,” and the collaborative efforts within the process, involving the general public and stakeholder groups.

Infusino, who agreed to talk with Clarke Broadcasting, was reluctant to speak independently, pointing out that the letter and an accompanying press release would lay out in detail the specific reasons for CPC’s action.

However, when asked why, in a nutshell, CPC, which has remained centrally involved among the stakeholder groups, was not satisfied with considering the GPU a “living” document that would continue to be amended, he explained that the board failed to provide enough in the way of identified, prioritized accountabilities in the plan.

Too Unfinished, Not Enough Accountability?

“They put off until tomorrow what they should have done today,” he said.

CPC is maintaining that the intentions of the suit are to protect residents from the harm that would result from the county’s approval of an incomplete general plan. In the letter, CPC’s stated position is that if the county had simply done its job over the 13 years it took to finish a general plan, the group would not have to file suit to protect public safety, the county’s economy, the value of its resource production lands, and the vitality of local fish and wildlife.

Among its criticisms is that the GPU indefinitely defers addressing some issues that in the past were already identified as key and critical; such as missing community plans, improving emergency response times, pedestrian safety, and agricultural land conservation.

The group also argues that the GPU indefinitely defers the work needed to fund the infrastructure and service expansions needed to accommodate new development, which it says is harmful to the county’s long-term financial health. It additionally calls the county to task for failing to address in the GPU over two dozen significant natural resources impacts, including increased risk of loss, injury, or death due to wildfire, and indefinitely defers adopting the mitigation measures that are supposed to reduce such impacts.

Since the suit, should it continue forward, will likely take two to three years to be heard, CPC included a challenge in its letter to the supervisors, requesting that they take immediate steps to complete the deferred parts of the GPU.

As reported here, back in early February, just a few weeks after the Tuolumne County supervisors passed the county’s long-awaited GPU, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center (CSERC) sent notice of its intent to file a CEQA petition.

Among that group’s concerns were what it described as weakened conservation requirements in the GPU and that the plan lacked clarity over how new development projects will be required to mitigate for creating additional greenhouse gas emissions, which are identified by the state as a contributing factor to climate change.

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