Town meeting revives Community Plan discussion


After a January hiatus, the monthly Town Hall meeting reconvened on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building. 

Three Rivers Community Plan— At the top of the agenda was a presentation by Tulare County planners on a Three Rivers Community Plan Update. 

“On January 28, the Board of Supervisors voted to formally initiate the update to the Three Rivers Community Plan,” announced Michael Spata, associate planning director for Tulare County’s Resource Management Agency. 

“The key topics of the community plan are related to land use, environmental issues, and what housing would be appropriate for Three Rivers,” he continued. “To gather information for the plan, we will be conducting a series of monthly public outreach meetings throughout 2014-15.”

Four other communities — Traver, Earlimart, Goshen, and Pixley are also working on plan updates.

Dave Bryant, a special projects planner for the County of Tulare, followed Spata and outlined 10 goals specific to the Three Rivers Community Plan. Priority among the goals is to promote compatible development, ensure economic vitality, and protect the environment.

“Three Rivers is unique because of its scenic beauty and character,” Bryant said. “The goals of the plan in general are to conserve the scenic values while enhancing the community character.”

Creating diverse housing options, also one of the goals of the plan, seemed to be a hot button topic as members of the audience cautioned against promoting subsidized projects or high density.

“High density in Three Rivers might mean one dwelling per acre,” Bryant said. “What the plan does is address what housing types might be appropriate.”

Supervisor Allen Ishida, who was in attendance, said that just because a housing type is appropriate doesn’t mean anyone will build it. The housing element portion is mandated by California law for all general plans.

Ishida also said that when he first was running for the supervisor’s seat in 2003 he attended a community plan meeting at the Holiday Inn Express (now Comfort Inn). He recalls lots of discord at that meeting but former supervisor Bill Sanders was adept at crowd control.

Karen Bodner of Three Rivers asked Spata if the information compiled in the last decade for use in a Three Rivers Community Plan would be used in the new plan and would there be a water study?  Spata answered “yes” to both questions, and the water study, he said, would be part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required by the project.

Supervisor Ishida also mentioned that the Scenic Highway application would be revived as an element of the updated Three Rivers Community Plan. Tom Sparks, who was instrumental in the work completed thus far on a CalTrans scenic highway designation, was at the meeting and was also recognized for his 10 years of service on the TCAG (Tulare County Association of Governments) board of directors.

Sparks recently announced his retirement from TCAG. He will continue to be active locally and is currently assisting the Three Rivers Lions with their special use permit.      

The first Three Rivers Community Plan meeting will be held separately from the regular town meeting. It is tentatively scheduled for a Monday in March; date, location, and time to be determined.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks— Dana Dierkes, public affairs officer, also announced that the park is planning to start the next phase of  road construction as soon as the details of the contract can be worked out. The section of the Generals Highway that will be reconstructed will be from the Commissary Curve area (at the Crystal Cave Road junction) to the Wolverton intersection.

She said that Sequoia Shuttles would be allowed to pass every 30 minutes while private vehicles would be permitted to pass on the hour. Dierkes said the parks hope to encourage more shuttle use with this policy during the road construction that is scheduled to take two years.

Tulare County Fire— Chief Joe Garcia, Tulare County Fire Department cautioned that his agency expects the drought to raise the level of fire danger to extreme for 2014. He also furnished an end of year summary for the activities his agency.

In 2013, county fire personnel responded to 12.084 calls that figures out to more than 1,000 calls a month.

“That means we were quite busy,” Chief Garcia said. “We also reviewed 569 building permit applications, conducted 7,262 weed abatement inspections, installed 1,300 carbon monoxide/smoke detectors and gave numerous public outreach presentations at schools, and the county fair.”

 Chief Garcia also mentioned that Jason Hawes, a local paid-call firefighter was honored along with Deb Schweizer, formerly the fire education specialist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, at last month’s Heroes Month recognition night.

Peter Sodhy, the president of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce that sponsors the Heroes Month celebrations, said this month Scott Doyle, the most recent Three Rivers resident deputy, and Clancy Blakemore, longtime VIP, will be honored.

The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 3 and will feature a presentation by Kerry Hydash, CEO of Family Healthcare Network.   

The Three Rivers Village Foundation is currently looking for members to help sponsor future town meetings and other community projects. For more information on the town meeting or to support the foundation contact Lee Goldstein 561-3204.

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