Three Rivers Community Plan process enters second year


Question: How can a community devise a planning document for its future growth upon which every resident can agree?

Answer: It can’t.

That was about the only consensus at the Three Rivers Community Plan Update meeting on Monday evening, Feb. 9. There were 13 Three Rivers residents in attendance at the 12th monthly meeting, led by Michael Spata, director of Tulare County’s Resource Management Agency, and Dave Bryant, special projects manager. The meetings have been ongoing since February 2014.

There are meetings scheduled at least through 2015, the second Monday of each month, so it’s not too late to get in on the discussion. After all, everyone who resides here should provide input on the direction Three Rivers will take now and in the future.

Several topics were addressed and discussed in depth under a specific chapter of the proposed plan entitled “Protection and Conservation of the Environment.” There was discussion as to protection of native trees, specifically oaks and sycamores.

The language of the plan is loose, purposefully, according to Spata. For instance, one policy section states, “Removal or grading around native trees (6” or larger in diameter) which may disturb the root system shall not be allowed during the construction process…”

Sounds black and white. But the sentence continues, “… unless the County deems it is necessary because of road alignment or improvements…”

“A prohibition is an absolute,” explained Spata. “As it is applying to private property, it’s important to strike a balance.”

Those in attendance closely reviewing the current draft questioned such ambiguous phrases in the document as “given reasonably available and feasible mitigation measures.” But the plan is interesting reading for anyone who cares about the future of the community. And it’s easily accessible online.

Following the oak woodlands discussion, it was onto “Visual Resources.” The key points centered around whether ridgetop development should be prohibited, which is an objective in the plan unless, of course, “given reasonably available and feasible mitigation measures.”

At this juncture, the discourse centered around private property rights — if you own the hilltop, you should be able to build on the hilltop — versus preserving the Three Rivers viewshed.

Historically, it takes a dozen or so years to create a community plan for Three Rivers. The area’s first plan was adopted in May 1980, although the county Board of Supervisors had directed its planning department staff to begin work on its preparation on June 6, 1968.

“From 1972 until June 28, 1977, relatively little progress was made toward completing the plan, primarily because of limited community interest and other County priorities,” states the 1980 plan in Chapter 1’s introduction.

It wasn’t until a Three Rivers “Citizens Advisory Committee” was formed that two-and-a-half years later, a community plan was born.

These comprehensive plans are normally intended to be in force for 20 years before a new one is developed and takes precedence. All was pretty much on schedule when in 2002 a group of Three Rivers residents began holding public meetings and scoping sessions to begin work on a new, updated community plan.

And here we are, once again, more than a dozen years later — and 35 years after the adoption of the initial Three Rivers Community Plan — and there is now some progress being made due to the commitment of the county RMA planners.

The next Three Rivers Community Plan Update meeting will be held Monday, March 9, at 7 p.m., at the Three Rivers Arts Center. All members of the community are urged to attend and provide feedback.

To view the plan online, type “Three Rivers Community Plan Update” into the search function or go to: In addition, the current agenda will be posted there when prepared.    

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