Three Rivers Community Plan slated for release this month


Resource Management Agency planners are on a tight deadline to release the next round of documents of the Three Rivers Community Plan update by the end of 2017. That is the department’s deadline, according to Dave Bryant, Tulare County’s special projects lead planner.
Bryant, a decade ago, found himself in the unique position of working simultaneously on planning documents for Tulare County’s General Plan Update and a feasibility study of the proposed Yokohl Ranch development. The Tulare County General Plan 2030 Update was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2012; the Yokohl Ranch project is currently shelved.
Bryant paid a visit to Three Rivers this week to do a walk-through of a Three Rivers commercial section (Anne Lang’s Emporium to Three Rivers Chevron) that contains some new businesses but also zoning inconsistencies. He explained that two draft documents for the Three Rivers Community Plan are scheduled to be released later this month that specifically address development and zoning.
The first of these is an updated version of the Community Plan in one volume and an environmental document that addresses all the components as contained in Appendix G of CEQA. CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act that requires communities to have general plans and provides a prescription for how the process should be conducted to implement the completed plans.
Most counties, cities, and rural communities adopted community plans in the late 1970s or early ‘80s after CEQA was adopted in 1971. It’s an arduous process and can only proceed after a series of public hearings are conducted by planning commissions, city councils, or county supervisors.
The original Three Rivers Community Plan was adopted in 1980. Though that plan was adequate for 1980, state law requires that general plans be updated every 20 to 30 years with some leeway granted to accommodate the process. 
An update for Three Rivers was undertaken 15 years ago but then-Supervisor Allen Ishida scrapped that effort after he was elected in 2004. Supervisor Ishida cited that the local general plan committee did not represent a consensus of Three Rivers interests. 
The County of Tulare revived its efforts to complete a Three Rivers Community Plan update in 2009. It was hoped that the documents could be approved in a reasonable time and then added as an appendix to the Tulare County General Plan.
“There is no doubt that Three Rivers is a unique community and the content will be larger than other recently completed community plans,” Bryant said. 
He was referring to the half-dozen other community plans that were recommended last month by the Tulare County Planning Commission for adoption by the Board of Supervisors at an upcoming meeting in December. The Three Rivers plan, which narrowly missed an end-of-year 2016 release, had to be placed on the back-burner because of a funding sunset for the other community plans.
According to Bryant, once the Three Rivers documents are released by month’s end, the clock will start ticking to receive comments during a 45-day period that will be officially noticed. 
“At some time during that comment period we will come up and conduct a community meeting to answer questions and ensure that all who want to comment can do so,” Bryant said.
Bryant said it is still not certain as to how many pages the two volumes will contain, however, the Community Plan document (Volume 1) will include, but won’t necessarily be limited to, the following discussions:
—A background section including a historical context, a description of existing conditions, and an analysis of socio-economic data updated from the 2010 census.
—A description of the Urban Development Boundaries based upon those first delineated in the 1980 plan. This section will explain a planning framework for parcels in the UDBs and for those outside that are subject to the zoning regulations as contained in the Foothill Management Growth Plan. 
(This section is the nuts and bolts of the plan as it contains land-use and zoning diagrams as to what uses are appropriate where. Zoning districts as outlined in the diagrams are described in more detail to explain parcel requirements.)
—The zoning analysis is followed by an implementation chapter. In past plans, this has been the problematic part because of inconsistent enforcement of permit and zoning regulations during the life of the plan.  It is further complicated according to Bryant  by…  “where to find the funding to make the necessary community improvements.”
Bryant also said that during the dozens of workshops and public meetings held in Three Rivers during the plan’s development process, there were requests that the plan contain special studies like an oak woodland plan. The draft plan does not as yet contain any special studies.
Some preliminary studies were conducted as a part of the environmental documentation.
“We are fortunate to have local consultants available with expertise in Three Rivers on biological and cultural resources,” Bryant said.
Other topics to be included in the environmental documentation (Volume 2) are land use, transportation/circulation, air quality, noise, and aesthetics. Aesthetics are key in a scenic community and will contain discussions on ridgetop development and planning to maintain a scenic corridor and appropriate zoning on riverfront parcels.
Bryant admitted there is no easy route to completing a general plan for a complex community like Three Rivers.
“What we do know for certain is that with release of these two draft documents, the clock will be begin ticking on the process,” he said.                 

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