Also, an editorial from the Sacramento Bee is here. It called the plan “a true breakthrough in collaborative efforts to guide growth in a farsighted fashion.” Here’s the summary:
Last month the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved submitting the Placer County Conservation Plan (PCCP) to state and federal agencies for approval.
The PCCP will protect about 80,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands and water, and raise about $1.5 billion for land and water protection and stewardship, during the next 50 years, while managing the availability of 118,000 acres of land for growth and development in the remainder of the plan area.
About 16,000 acres within the area have already been protected by either the Placer Land Trust or other investments by Placer County’s Open Space Trust Fund.
The PCCP is the first phase of a planned county-wide effort to coordinate in one place four different mandatory regulatory processes, in order to reduce costs, increase certainty and provide predictability for landowners, while meeting the county’s open space, habitat and water quality objectives.
Phase I covers the foothills and grasslands and valley floor regions of the county from roughly Auburn down to Antelope and up to Sheridan (a 212,000 acre area).
The four processes the PCCP aggregates are the counties requirement to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act through a Habitat Conservation Plan; the requirement to comply with the California Endangered Species Act through a Natural Communities Conservation Plan; the federal requirement to comply with Sections 401 & 404 and the Clean Water Act through programmatic permitting; and state requirements to comply with Section 1600 of the California Fish and Game Code, through programmatic permitting.
Once the plan is approved a landowner wishing to develop has only one place to go, the County Planning Office, and they will be able to issue all of the required permits, in approximately 18 months less time than doing so through the various agencies.
The Staff Report is here.
The creation of the PCCP was one of the major recommendations of the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Program, approved by the board of Supervisors in 2000.
A description of the Placer Legacy Program is here.
HOW IT BEGAN
The Placer Legacy Program began in 1998 after several Placer Board of Supervisors members recognized, that as the fastest growing county in California much of what was attractive and desirable about living in the county was at risk from rapid growth and development, and that the County General Plan, adopted in 1994, provided direction to manage that growth.
The county, recognizing that growth was a major driver of economic development and prosperity, was seeking a mechanism to direct growth to the most desirable areas, while compensating landowners who might want to develop and had lands in sensitive areas.
Simultaneously, state and federal regulators, who have a mandate to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, were approaching the county with concerns about the rapidity and location of growth.In 1998 Sierra Business Council (SBC) approached the County with the idea of conducting an inclusive community process to address these issues, incorporate multiple interests and stakeholders, use a collaborative process to identify objectives, and incorporate them into a programmatic General Plan amendment to achieve the objectives.
While these discussions were taking place SBC approached some major California philanthropic foundations with a request to support the effort, and secured approximately $350 K to augment County investments in support of the effort.
Placer Legacy was born, with a unanimous vote of the Board.
For the next three years the county convened three collaborative groups to develop and coordinate recommendations: a Citizen’s Advisory Group, with wide ranging stakeholder interests involved; an Inter-Agency Working Group of local, state and federal agencies; and a Scientific Working Group comprised of the top experts in the field.
Working together these three groups advised staff on the drafting of the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Plan, approved by the Board, once again unanimously, in 2000. The Plan enjoyed the support of the Building Industry Association, Placer County Association of Realtors, and the Sierra Club.
The Placer Legacy plan included a request for an advisory vote of the people approving the plan, which passed as Measure V with 56 percent of the vote, and a financial commitment to accelerate land protection activities in the form of a ¼ of 1 percent sales tax increase, which failed as Measure W with 28 percent of the vote, in June of 2000.
Subsequent to the passage of Placer Legacy the PCCP process began, while acquisitions of property to meet the objectives continued, without the requested investment from the sales tax. Since 2000 there has been approximately 16,000 acres of land protection.
Sierra Business Council’s key role in these programs has been 1) helping to conceptualize the project, 2) fundraising (over the years we have raised over $1 million to support the planning and acquisition), 3) managing the public engagement processes, working groups, and acting as facilitator, 4) public relations, and 5) assisting the staff with drafting and reviewing documents.
This was my first project as an SBC staff member, joining the effort begun by former SBC staff member Tracy Grubbs in progress in late 1999, and working through the process until today.
This will represent the single largest investment in Sierra Nevada conservation since the creation of the national parks. I am particularly proud of the fact that this will actually help reduce costs to developers and the economic development community by providing certainty, predictability and clarity about what can, and cannot, be done.
This is the ultimate proof that economic development and smart environmental protection are not competing goals. In reality they are complimentary values. When the PCCP is approved by state and federal regulators this will be one of the proudest achievements of my life.
Tremendous credit in this process needs to go to: the hundreds of community volunteers and supporters; leadership at the County level, particularly County Supervisor Robert Weygandt, Planning Directors Fred Yeager and Mike Johnson, and lead planning staff Loren Clark; and the interests in the development, environmental, housing, conservation, water, cities, and economic development communities who stuck with it through 12 long years to make it happen.
This is an example of what a community with vision, will, commitment, political sophistication, a collaborative spirit, and tenacity, can achieve.
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