This is simply grassroots involvement by a community that cares
Mr. Burnett, your frustration with grassroots involvement is apparent. What you and the developers are experiencing is little more than democracy in action. And a community who passionately cares.
Let's see if this helps: It's not just citizens and environmental groups all over Sacramento County asking for a master plan update, but the attorney general, who also felt not updating the plan is, in itself, piecemealing. Piecemealing, by the way, is contrary to CEQA regulations.
The Army Corps (so far and holding) agrees with U.S. EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (who agreed with citizens) that piecemealing is also occurring under NEPA (the federal environmental standard). The feds want cumulative review, as do we. Proper cumulative environmental review (which, so far, the county has refused to do) will greatly improve the project.
FYI: Judges can throw out an EIR based on piecemealing (non cumulative) concerns alone. Under strict state and federal regulations, environmental issues, including water, must be studied as a whole -- to protect communities!
It's important for the county to update this EIR and master plan. Remember the recent Sunrise Douglas case? That EIR was just torn apart by six out of seven supreme court justices. And guess what? That EIR was written by none other than Sac County. They have to get this one right.
Developers, left to themselves, will do as they please. No one said projects, on some level, won't get built. But, in Murieta, where citizens take their community seriously, they are only going to get built within the context of the environment, and, here's a shocker, within the context of the law.
In order for the CEQA/NEPA process to work as intended, it's crucial to engage citizen involvement. And thank goodness, despite developer dismay, the citizens of Murieta are engaged.
-- Candy Chand, August 3, 2007
The call for a new master plan is only about trying to control the planning process
Your assessment is correct, they will get built. The developers are making concessions and providing more open space than the master plan calls for in the subdivisions (relative to Retreats and Residences). So what is the purpose of another master plan? The process is working! The developer submits their proposed plans, the municipal agencies conduct their review and have open hearings to receive public comment, and you know the drill.
Revising the master plan is costly, time-consuming and provides no real benefit. In my opinion, the people pushing for this feel they will be able to control the planning process, which is the same issue of trying to have the developers adhere to our CC&Rs. It is the developer's choice to annex and everyone simply needs to accept this fact. The master plan is about control and nothing else. Our community has several CIDs. Speakers at the county hearing, who were citing RMA’s CC&Rs lost any credibility, because they don’t apply.
The Army Corps has a wide berth in exercising discretion within their jurisdiction. They approve and review on a project-by-project basis. This doesn’t mean they won’t consider other information. Ultimately, they will move these projects through for approval.
-- Michael F. Burnett, August 2, 2007
Oversight is a good thing, and Candy's group provides it
It is great to see Candy and her supporters fight for what they believe is right. Governmental oversight will sell the public out in a heartbeat, if there isn't some type of citizen watchdog.
Twenty plus years ago, Tom Weiskopf's development company wanted to develop a couple of golf courses and probably some houses on Sunrise Avenue in the area of the current Anatolia dev elopement. He was turned down because of the vernal pools and the fairy shrimp in that area. I don't know what changed in that habitat over 20 years but look at the mess developers have made of that area for the past couple of years. The traffic and safety conditions in that area are inexcusable because of the failure to build the roads and complementing safety infrastructure to support the added construction-related quagmire, prior to home sales and residents. Further proof that public oversight doesn't really work if there isn't a watchdog.
I moved to RM twenty years ago and was told fairy tales about RMCC ownership, a complete custom home community (North RM), a new elementary school on Escuela Drive, and other tales that only a few (longtimers) would remember. I'm encouraged with the results Candy and her group have already had because in my estimation, life in RM can only improve if our public oversight has a watchdog.
-- Chuck Plog, August 2, 2007
It's not certain, but this could bring about a full study of Murieta's environment
Again, Mr. Burnett, these are not opinions gathered from a "private tea party," but public letters from the feds, which I have posted on RanchoMurieta.com. Again, who knows if the Corps will go through with their leaning towards cumulative review, but if they do, it will allow full and proper study of Murieta (on several environmental levels) which we've asked for all along.
Such study can ultimately impact project rooftop numbers (although you never know until the review is complete). Maps and local entitlements are not the same to the feds as they are to the county. The feds have NEPA standards.
For example, Lakeview had its residential zoning entitlement, and a prior map, and, yet, the project dropped from 181 to 118 units, practically overnight, after a Corps letter was issued to the developer about wetlands.
If you don't think federal NEPA study can make a difference in a project, ask yourself why R&B (ditto for the North developers) is fighting so hard against cumulative review.
-- Candy Chand, August 2, 2007
There may be some mitigation, but these projects will emerge largely as is
I largely agree with Candy's analysis. Because of prior rezoning approvals the new South developments were always destined to zoom pretty easily through the county, but Riverview, in particular, is likely to encounter some resistance and mitigation by the Feds over river and wetlands issues. But they'll eventually get built, probably at about the rooftop count contemplated but perhaps not in the configuration contemplated because some planned parcels may be too environmentally sensitive to build on.
But I predict that at most they'll probably just have to shift things around, maybe losing just a few parcels in the process. What matters is that those developments' impacts be assessed as part of the cumulative impacts analysis in a new master plan total rooftop cap assessment, and in that context some certainty about the eventuality of those Riverview and Lakeview rooftops is actually useful.
-- Wilbur Haines, August 1, 2007
Check the Corps' web site thoroughly for the complete answer
I found the information about the Special Area Management Plans (SAMPS) on the Army Corps of Engineer’s own web site. You might want to perform a more complete search of their site. The information was pretty easy to find and proves they do perform cumulative EIR reviews as well as project-by-project reviews.
From the Army Corps of Engineer’s web site:
“With Special Area Management Plans (SAMPS), the Corps of Engineers undertakes a comprehensive review of aquatic resources in an entire watershed. This approach is more environmentally sensitive than the traditional project-by-project process. The traditional approach does not facilitate the evaluation of cumulative loss of resources over time. With the SAMP approach, we can analyze potential impacts at the watershed scale in order to identify priority areas for preservation, identify potential restoration areas, determine the least environmentally damaging locations for proposed projects, and establish alternative permitting processes appropriate for the SAMP areas.”
It is important to include all of the facts if you want others to look at your statements as a reliable source.
-- Matthew McGuire, August 1, 2007
The information I offered isn't mine -- it's the Army Corps'
I posted the information directly from the Army Corps of Engineers web site and posted their URL. Their process is to conduct reviews on a project-by-project basis. They permit on a project-by-project basis. The information is not mine; it is the Army Corps'.
I am not dealing with innuendo and speculation based on tea parties at someone's private residence. I am citing directly from the source. Does that mean that some government agencies operate with disregard for their own policies and procedures? I will let you be the judge of that.
Our laws are based on establishing policies and procedures that are supposed to guarantee fairness. People like to cite the rules if it benefits their personal needs and then disregards them when it works against their interests. If the system breaks down and we have rogue individuals or agencies making up the rules as they go, then we are headed for anarchy.
-- Michael F. Burnett, August 1, 2007
Google has plenty of examples of the reviews you say don't happen
Mr. Burnett, are you saying that the Army Corps of Engineers does not perform cumulative EIR reviews? I am no expert in this area, so I started to Google for the facts and I am finding plenty of examples where the Army Corps of Engineers does review cumulative studies. They do this in compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or Special Area Management Plans (SAMPS). Everything I am reading contradicts your statements, so I will ask you to please stop misleading the residents of Rancho Murieta.
-- Matthew McGuire, August 1, 2007
I guess you haven't read the relevant documents here
Mr. Burnett, it is not misleading anyone to tell the truth. My only guess is, you have not read the federal letters on these projects (which I posted on RM.com ages ago). I can also guess you have not read developer R&B's response to the Corps (it was huge), challenging the possibility of such serious federal cumulative studies.
I do not know what the Corps will ultimately choose to do. However, as stated before, I have had their reps to my home and gone on lengthy tours of Murieta with them. Ditto for U.S. EPA. Please note the prior letters I've posted on RanchoMurieta.com about Riverview/Lakeview from U.S. FWS, U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps, regarding the need for cumulative environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Although things could change, the last I heard from their representatives (and it was fairly recently), the federal leaning towards some form of NEPA cumulative studies has not changed.
Bottom line is: The developers cannot pull a single building permit without first receiving U.S. wetland permits, and if the Corps requires cumulative review before they issue those permits, R&B can't move forward without it.
-- Candy Chand, August 1, 2007
The development opponents need to stop misleading the community
Once again, a development opponent overstates the situation. Below is the Army Corps of Engineers processing steps for project review and approval. As you will note, the review is completed on a project-by-project basis. Requiring cumulative EIR reviews for projects, which are not even in the planning stage, are not processed as have been implied.
Please note the very first sentence and the last paragraph. In the last paragraph, “Army Corps supports a strong partnership….” is also at odds with the development opponent’s comments. The Corps is going to protect the river and wetlands, which they should. However, that does not mean the wetlands can’t be redefined (I have done this in the Adirondacks) or mitigation measures required as part of the contract. Viking just built a bridge with construction taking place right in the middle of the river.
Please stop misleading the residents of Rancho Murieta. It will only come back to haunt you in the end.
The basic form of authorization used by Corps districts is the individual permit. Processing such permits involves evaluation of individual, project specific applications in what can be considered three steps: pre-application consultation (for major projects), formal project review, and decision-making.
Pre-application consultation usually involves one or several meetings between an applicants, Corps district staff, interested resource agencies (Federal, state, or local), and sometimes the interested public. The basic purpose of such meetings is to provide for informal discussions about the pros and cons of a proposal before an applicant makes irreversible commitments of resources (funds, detailed designs, etc.). The process is designed to provide the applicant with an assessment of the viability of some of the more obvious alternatives available to accomplish the project purpose, to discuss measures for reducing the impacts of the project, and to inform him of the factors the Corps must consider in its decision making process. Once a complete application is received, the formal review process begins. Corps districts operate under what is called a project manager system, where one individual is responsible for handling an application from receipt to final decision. The project manager prepares a public notice, evaluates the impacts of the project and all comments received, negotiates necessary modifications of the project if required, and drafts or oversees drafting of appropriate documentation to support a recommended permit decision. The permit decision document includes a discussion of the environmental impacts of the project, the findings of the public interest review process, and any special evaluation required by the type of activity such as compliance determinations with the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines or the ocean dumping criteria. The Corps supports a strong, partnership with states in regulating water resource developments. This is achieved with joint permit processing procedures (e.g., joint public notices and hearings), programmatic general permits founded on effective state programs, transfer of the Section 404 program in non-navigable waters, joint Weiss, special area management planning, and regional conditioning of nationwide permits.
-- Michael F. Burnett, August 1, 2007
The South development game isn't over yet
John, I understand your concern, but remember, nothing's over 'til it's over. And, you'll be glad to know, I haven't been to any development funerals yet. ;)
I am also saddened by the Riverview Planning Commission approval, even though I fully expected the decision. Here's a bit of history: This is a project with approximately 140 homes near the sensitive Cosumnes River -- 57 acres, by the way, the developer only paid $2,000 for in 2004 (land worth between $5 and 10 million, but that's another story).
The Lakeview project was reduced from 181 units down to 118 (for wetlands) and then down again to 99. So, from 181 to 99, it was quite an improvement.
However, the Riverview project, along the Cosumnes, is far more sensitive. Unfortunately, neither project needs Board of Supervisor approval, because they already have their residential zoning rights -- have for years (in contrast, the North acreage is still zoned agricultural). Once a project has residential zoning, it's very difficult to control.
The Riverview decision, however, can be appealed.
I went to every meeting for the South development Lakeview and Riverview proposals: CCPAC, planning (several each) as well as commented on the EIR's. I even challenged the commission's decision to approve the final EIR for Riverview because I had not been allowed to testify (a violation of the Brown Act) nor place letters into the record. In the end, county counsel agreed with my challenge, the commission re-heard the project, allowed my testimony, letters were officially placed into the record, and the commission (as expected) approved the project anyway.
In fact, the commission spent far more time asking intelligent questions about another proposal on the agenda that night -- a sign on Sunrise Boulevard (How big would the sign be? How many signs will be used? What kind of lighting will the sign have?) then they did a project plunking 140 homes near the Cosumnes River. Ya gotta love it.
It's important to note: the developer can't build anyway. Why? The Army Corps has not approved wetland permits for either South project. The U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been to my home for documents (multiple project info) and taken a detailed tour of Murieta. Some time ago, the Corps wrote a letter to R&B (I was sent copies and posted them on RM.com) telling the developer they agreed with the U.S. EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife (who agreed with us) that the projects needed cumulative environmental review under federal NEPA standards, before they could move forward.
In other words, (and this is really crucial) local entitlements (county) mean nothing, until the feds say it's OK to build. And so far (and they could change their minds, so hold onto your hats), the feds have not OK'd anything. If the Corps sticks to their guns, cumulative review will be generated, and even though not done by the county under state CEQA guidelines, it would be done by the feds under even stricter NEPA regulations.. Such studies take time, are healthy and ultimately control the project environmentally. This would be a good thing,
I'd be happy to share more about this project with you, John, or with anyone else who is interested. You can e-mail me at PatCan85@aol.com or call me at home at 0832. Please leave a message; I screen my calls. Thank you.
-- Candy Chand, August 1, 2007
How can the South be developed and the North at a standstill?
I just saw on the home page that the Sacramento County Project Planning Commission certified the environmental impact report and approved the map for the Riverview subdivision at its July 23 meeting.
How can development be approved for the South but not the North? We share water, sewer, traffic, and the river/environment. Isn't all RM development grouped into the same EIR?
I am sure there will be development on both sides eventually. Thankfully there are folks making sure the developers don't just strip everything as they do everywhere else.
-- John Latiolais, July 31, 2007