Spending more than $600,000 to update Mono County’s General Plan just because the state gave the County some money didn’t sit well with Supervisor Larry Johnston at the Jan. 22 Board of Supervisors meeting.
“The need to update our General Plan right now is optional,” Johnston told staff, pointing to other higher priority items throughout the County where staff should be focusing their efforts.
“There’s nothing happening in Benton and Chalfant,” he said. “The biggie right now is June Lake, including updating the June Lake Area Plan which is way overdue.”
Johnston also pointed to projects in the current General Plan that haven’t been completed, such as downtown parking, the biomass feasibility study, Benton Crossing Landfill issues, and solarization of buildings throughout the County.
“Spending $650,000 to tweak a few policies is a big gulp,” Johnston said. Even if $326,514 of those dollars come from a grant awarded by the State Department of Conservation.
According to County Associate Analyst Wendy Sugimura who was responsible for the grant application the work would entail modernizing and adding user friendliness to the General Plan as well as updating several areas of the plan that have been deemed out of date.
“The Attorney General said that four elements are out of date but all that means is that we don’t have a new date stamped on them,” Johnston argued. “I don’t want to commit staff time to a General Plan update that may or may not be necessary.”
County Counsel Stacey Simon pointed out that a problem only arises if the General Plan becomes legally inadequate. “We have to keep up with changes in state law,” she said.
Environmental sections in the current General Plan do need some review, according to staff. Segments dealing with greenhouse gases could be under fire in the future with the term greenmail now in our vocabulary (see previous stories about greenmail at www.thesheetnews.com).
“The Ormat project [MP-1, which has been under scrutiny by labor unions] was reducing greenhouse gases but that may not always be the case,” Community Development Director Scott Burns said.
Johnston said that having the grant money was a good thing but it shouldn’t be used for “superfluous planning efforts.”
“You raise a lot of good points, Larry, but what are you suggesting in terms of action, today?” asked Supervisor Fred Stump. The Board was being asked to approve a resolution initiating the comprehensive update and to approve the CAO signing the grant agreement.
“We should take the grant but it adds another $300,000 to the budget,” Johnston said. “The grant is for sustainability, whatever we deem that to be.”
Sugimura clarified that while the County did have flexibility in where it focuses the grant work, the overall deliverable was a General Plan update. She also added that some projects that Supervisor Johnston had mentioned, such as the biomass feasibility study, would receive funding from the grant.
“We’re not throwing out the old General Plan, we’re just updating pieces,” Sugimura said.
In regard to Johnston’s concern about staff time, Burns pointed out that staff could direct more of the work to a consultant.
“How can we make you happy Supervisor Johnston?” Sugimura asked.
“I would be satisfied if you could get done in six months,” Johnston said.
Sugimura said that some portions such as parking could be finished in six months but others could not.
Johnston agreed to vote in favor if staff kept the work minimal enough to still divert resources to the other projects he had mentioned. The Board approved the resolution 5-0.