February 14, 2006
Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340
On behalf of the Northern San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers, which consists predominately of Merced County residents, we would like to enter our comments toward the Agenda Item: General Plan Amendment Policy.
We feel that protecting some of the world’s most valuable farmland and open space from rampant development is in line with CAFF’s mission, which is “to build a movement of rural and urban people to foster family-scale agriculture that cares for the land, sustains local economies and promotes social justice”.
CAFF is recommending that all variances, zone changes, General Plan amendments and annexations be denied prior to creation of a new General Plan.
Not only are we operating without an updated General Plan, we are also operating without a comprehensive water study. These plans are essential to good sound planning. Good soils are a finite resource. Our water is our lifeline and we cannot make any sound decisions prior to a full comprehensive water study. A General Plan and Water Supply Plan go hand in hand. They are incontrovertibly tied together. We are also recommending that all variances, zone changes, General Plan amendments and annexations be denied prior to a creation of a comprehensive water study and supply plan.
Moratorium, I believe, is considered a four-letter word in our county. We don’t need to be so frightened of this. It is actually a safeguard for you, our supervisors. This will allow you to deny the many out-of-compliance projects flying into our planning department and to not have to play politics with the developers until we really know where we want to proceed. Let the General Plan update be the bad guy and force Merced to become an example of what is good planning for the state.
The momentum is growing here in Merced to curb our sprawling growth. If our county leaders can’t create controlled, planned growth then we will be forced to take it to the voters. There are hundreds of examples of “Moratoriums” in this state that have come
from initiatives. The voters want their voices heard when it comes to setting our quality of life. In nearby Tracy, the voters passed Measure A growth restrictions, Sutter County just passed a short term moratorium, Yolo county has one of the broadest existing moratoriums. Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon rejected, by a slim margin, an initiative to shift the approvals for housing projects from elected officials to the electorate after millions of dollars from the developers were dumped into the campaign. Alameda County urban boundaries were tightened by voters last November and the law survived its first legal challenge. We are asking that you elected officials make this vital planning decision so that the public initiative process will not be necessary. We want our elected officials to show us true leadership.
The Merced County General Plan is notoriously outdated. For a county that has been selected to be in the spotlight with the University of Merced and other “World Class” proposed projects, we should be an example for the rest of the state. We should have THE state of the art of General Plans. However we are on a road without a map. We need our planning to be a showcase. We need to ensure that the natural resources are plentiful enough, for those of us residing and making our livings here. We do not owe housing to the Bay Area job market. We need to protect those of us living here first, prior to bringing in new population, prior to splitting any more of our productive soils into lots for hobby farms and box stores. This is an opportunity to stop what we are doing and move forward with proper and enlightened planning.
CAFF is an organization that works to protect the family farm, and therefore, the interests of many Merced County Farmers.
You have a moral responsibility to set a proper road map for the county to follow and to assure that we will be able to continue farming and be assured that there is ample water supply.
Community Alliance of Family Farmers