Why should the County put a Moratorium on development right now?
By Doug Bell, Vice President, SOFAR

GP 2020, the County’s land use blueprint for the next twenty years, is due to be adopted by the Board of Supervisors soon. For the County this is another defining moment. Having failed once before to draft and implement a responsible (and legal) land use plan and rejecting (and actually campaigning against) Proposition B, the Board of Supervisors now has a second chance to earn the “smart growth” credentials it so publicly advertises by declaring an interim moratorium on all new development until GP 2020 is adopted.

The reasons why a moratorium is necessary are the hundreds of “vested” commercial and residential projects already in the planning pipeline that stand to be approved regardless of their non-conformity to the new plan. These projects, which will litter the backcountry with big box retail stores, supermarkets, strip malls, and housing tracts, are to smart growth what glassy-winged sharpshooters are to this year’s grape harvest.

Their impact on our county’s natural and economic resources would be devastating. California Government Code section 65858 authorizes city or county government to prohibit the issuance of building permits while it is in the process of updating its general plan. Such an interim ordinance, adopted recently by local governments in Tiburon, San Juan Capistrano, and Sutter and Orange Counties, is intended only to prevent conflicts between new development entitlements based on current land use plans and contemplated changes to those plans.

In effect, a moratorium suspends the planned destruction of our backcountry and allows public input to secure, in the words of the ordinance, “the public health, safety, and welfare.” Responsible action, starting with a moratorium ordinance the supervisors are legally authorized to impose, is needed now to protect the county¹s ability to accommodate recently approved development as it formulates strategies to address the series of countywide problems that take turns in local headlines‹from sewage and pollution control to traffic to water and power distribution.

To encourage the Board of Supervisors to make the necessary findings pursuant to such an ordinance, Save Our Forest and Ranchlands has invited local planning and sponsor groups to call on the supervisors to suspend the issuance of permits until GP 2020 is adopted. With no valid reason not to introduce a building moratorium and ample legal precedent to do so, the Board of Supervisors might at last decide that the right thing to do is also the legal thing, and vice versa.

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