Leaders nix local planning boards

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat /

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took the final step toward eliminating multiple local planning commissions and design review committees, a move critics said would disenfranchise communities from the planning process.

The board voted 4-1 on the final proposal, effective July 1.

The decision-making handled by the commissions will now be handled by a single county planning commission, which is the norm in most counties. It will also pare back the design-review process and county leaders hope will simplify the development process.

The board voted in February to look at eliminating the various panels, following therecommendation of a special committee that reviewed the role of each.

"What is before us today is the implementation of a decision already made by the board," said Supervisor Karl Rodefer, who supported the proposal along with supervisors Sherri Brennan, Randy Hanvelt and Evan Royce.

While backers say it will streamline the land-planning process, opponents have said those committees and commissions give the county's individual communities a voice and a role in local government they would not otherwise have.

The county has area planning commissions for Columbia, Jamestown and Southern Tuolumne County, which make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on amendments to county zoning and long-range development plans, as well as land-use and development proposals in their areas.

They also can approve permits on conditional use, design review, site review and development, though those decisions can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Changes will also include disbanding the Phoenix Lake, Muller subdivision, Twain Harte and Tuolumne City design review-planning advisory committees. Those committees comment on permits in their designated areas, which have additional zoning rules for properties.

The design review standards will only be handled when county planners reviewed other permits for construction projects, and the design review permit would be eliminated altogether. And the area where design review standards apply will also shrink to their communities' business cores.

In other news, the Board ofSupervisors:

• Listened to presentations on the county's mobile home rent control program and the joint powers agreement with the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency.

• Approved the 2013 Father's Day Fly-in vendors application.

• Recognized the career of Human Resources Director Bill Morse, who is retiring. Morse has worked in human resources for the county for 13 years. He also had experience in law enforcement and worked for the Sonora Mining Co. before joining the county.

He helped start the county's first ethics training program, helped guide many of the employees with the former Tuolumne General Medical Center transition to new employment, and played a role in multiple reorganization efforts as the county consolidated departments through the recent recession.

Dozens attended an emotional presentation in the board chambers Tuesday.

"It's all about relationships, and I think that's the core of human resources," Morse said. I always try to respect (people), regardless of the circumstances and the outcome."

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The Union Democrat
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