|Article Launched: 4/14/2006 12:00 AM|
|Butte County launches "voyage" to general plan|
|By ROGER H. AYLWORTH - Staff Writer
|OROVILLE -- Butte County has embarked on a
voyage that is expected to take three years, but at its end, there will
be a document that will chart the future of the county for decades to
Thursday was the first in what will be an intimidatingly long list of meetings, workshops, hearings, reviews and discussions on the Butte County General Plan.
The plan is a state-required document that will establish the nature and direction of growth in the county until 2030.
"The general plan is the constitution for the county," said Tim Snellings, director of the county Department of Development Services. "The key word for the general plan is 'policy.' It is a policy document. It is to give guidance for other documents," such as all county zoning and land use plans.
"The general plan is essentially the blueprint, the master blueprint. What that means is all other county regulations that get adopted need to be consistent with that general plan. It is a very critical document," he told more than 100 people gathered the Oroville Southside Community Center.
The audience was made up of county officials, including all five members of the Board of Supervisors, representative from the cities within Butte County, officials from area special districts, and many interested citizens.
This is not the first time Butte County has launched an effort to revise its general plan.
Abortive attempts were begun in the 1990s and in 2002, all without any significant success.
Snellings, who acted as the master of ceremonies for the four-hour gathering, said those two previous attempts are "the elephant in the room."
He said people have to get past the history of unsuccessful efforts to recast the general plan.
He went on to say there is "no need to debate the old efforts."
In the past it was like being asked to take care of a "critical project, with no budget, no support, no guidelines, and it has to be done in 15 minutes."
This attempt will be different.
Snellings said he has been given a budget, additional staff and a clear direction from the supervisors to "get it done."
"We are here. We are ready committed to be successful. Failure is not an option," he continued.
However, despite support, a budget and the best intentions, the process will be monumental.
Alex Hinds, Marin County Community Development Agency director, was on hand to describe the process his county has gone through to craft its general plan.
Part of that process included 22 separate hearings before the Marin County Planning Commission, and that didn't include the various public forums, workshops and other gatherings that have gone into the project.
Snellings said the goal is to reach "consensus" on the plan.
Hinds warmed against expecting unanimous approval.
"It will take forever if you want everybody to come to agreement. That will never happen," said the Marin planner.
Snellings also said the effort comes at a good time because the five incorporated cities within the county are also in the process of reviewing their general plans.
He said working together, sharing documents and data, and cooperating in other areas, could make the creation of the individual general plans so much easier.
However, the success of the cooperation will depends on whether the cities and the county can "put aside past differences and fights that we have had in the past."
Snellings said his goal is to have the plan written, all the hearings and environmental reviews completed, and have the plan adopted by the supervisors by sometime in 2008.
Using a sailing theme that he repeated throughout Thursday's workshop, Snellings said there will be many course corrections as his staff maneuvers toward the ultimate destination. He said there is no doubt they will arrive.
Having said that, the next meeting on the agenda will be a discussion before the county Planning Commission on April 27.
Video and AudioTim Snellings, Butte County's development services director, recites a poem about planning during the first General Plan meeting on Thursday, April 13, 2006 in Oroville.
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Staff writer Roger H. Aylworth can be reached at 896-7762 or raylworth@ chicoer.com.