Community plan, fire season are topics at town meeting


This month’s Town Hall meeting featured some lively discussion following remarks by Michael Spata, director of the Tulare County Resource Management Agency, and Dave Bryant, chief planner, special projects (RMA).

Spata outlined the Three Rivers Community Plan progress and timetable. He said there are currently volumes of material on the county’s website for anyone who is interested in a specific topic or wants to review the 1980 Three Rivers Community Plan, as well as materials that were compiled by the local community plan committee in 2000 and 2009.  

The updated plan will synthesize these efforts as well as all the input from the current monthly meetings (the group meets every second Monday) at the Three Rivers Arts Center. Spata also said there will be public hearings conducted by the Tulare County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors before the new plan is approved.

The public hearings are expected for 2016 and will signal that the planning process is nearing completion. Dave Bryant summarized each of the nine goals of the plan and said a draft of the goals and policies is now available for review.

Bryant said important among the concerns of the plan are to preserve the rural character of the Three Rivers and protect the Kaweah River.

Earl McKee, a lifelong resident of Three Rivers, said he was concerned about one of the plan’s policies that he heard would prohibit building on a ridgetop. He has a ridgetop lot with power and water on his property, he said, that one day he hopes to sell. 

Spata addressed Earl’s concern by saying that the community plan is seeking to find balance and that ridgetop building would not necessarily be prohibited. If a consensus can be reached it might only be appropriate to discourage ridgetop building in a scenic corridor. 

Spata encouraged everyone to get involved in the process, attend meetings, and furnish input. He is hopeful and it is realistic, he said, to have the plan completed in 2016.         

Representatives of the Tulare County Fire Department, Cal Fire and the NPS said the drought conditions have created an elevated risk in the current fire season. A team of Cal Fire inspectors are now in Three Rivers to check for proper 100 foot clearance around business and residential structures.

 Dave Allen, chief fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the NPS is implementing fire restrictions somewhat earlier this year in the parks. Due to extremely dry fuels, Allen said, there won’t be much a prescribed fire program this year. 

Allen also said all the prescribed burning of past could really pay dividends this year.

“I always plan for the worst case scenario,” Allen said who has lived for 13 years in the Cherokee Oaks subdivision of Three Rivers. “It’s critical to have a ‘What if” plan and make sure you can stay in touch with family members and have a planned escape route.”

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