Saturday, March 31, 2018

Foothill Conservancy and Amador County reach agreement in general plan dispute

On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, the County of Amador and the Foothill Conservancy took a significant step to advance protection of the scenic beauty, community character, agricultural lands and wildlife local residents cherish. The parties have approved a settlement agreement to resolve the Conservancy’s November 2016 lawsuit challenging the County's approval of its new general plan.

“We are grateful that the county agreed to work with us to find a resolution that’s good for the County, its residents, and local businesses,” said Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Amanda Nelson. “The settlement addresses our key concerns about the general plan, and its provisions will better protect the county’s agricultural lands, scenic beauty, community character and wildlife. It will also set up a system that requires the County to track key planning benchmarks and consider course corrections if things are headed in the wrong direction.”

Under the terms of the settlement, the county will consider County code amendments to:
  • Better protect homes from wildland fire when land is developed in high- and very high-risk wildland fire areas.
  • Reduce the likelihood of agricultural lands converting to nonagricultural uses.
  • Preserve wildlife, aquatic resources, and water quality.
  • Require applicants for commercial projects of 5,000 square feet or more to conduct an economic impact analysis of their project on the viability of existing businesses.

  • In addition, the county will develop ordinances to:
  • Protect rural scenic quality along Amador County’s roads.
  • Establish design standards for towns and existing communities to protect community character.
  • Limit light pollution that harms views of dark night skies.
The settlement also requires the County to develop or make available information to project applicants and real estate agents on the risks of wildland fire, available levels of fire and emergency response, and wildland fire prevention methods.

Finally, the settlement requires the County to develop a comprehensive set of general plan performance measures, with regular monitoring and periodic reports to the county board of supervisors. If identified trends are inconsistent with the general plan’s stated goals, County staff will provide an analysis and make recommendations to the board, which will then review the recommendations at a public hearing.

“We’re very happy with this outcome,” Nelson said. “It’s much better for everyone than going through a protracted, costly legal battle and extensive general plan changes.

“We’d like to thank the county’s negotiating team, including Supervisors Morgan and Forster, County staff, and the County’s outside counsel -- the Sohagi Law Group -- as well as our attorney Michael Graf, planner Terry Watt, and Conservancy President Katherine Evatt for all of the hard work that led to this agreement.”

For more information, contact Amanda Nelson:

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