MERCURIO: Board of Supervisors hypocrisy
Aug. 13, 2012
By RICK MERCURIO
Property rights. Taxpayer protection. Fairness.
Supervisors Bill Horn, Ron Roberts and Greg Cox tout these principles, but recent actions show hypocrisy at its worst.
The three supes voted to give land speculators a free ride to trash the new general plan. What would be free to the developers may cost us taxpayers $1.56 million.
It is a long, sordid story, and the shameful saga continues. The county's general plan was adopted a year ago after $16 million had been spent on many years of hearings, studies, and professional planning. Difficult compromises were reached among builders, environmentalists, and planners. The plan encompassed "smart growth" concepts, which encourage more density in town centers and lower density in outlying areas.
Horn cast the lone dissenting vote, but didn't accept his defeat.
Before the ink was dry, Horn, who is tied tightly to outside developers, began lobbying his fellow supervisors to make exceptions to the new zoning in the plan. Roberts and Cox agreed, asking the professional planners to magically manipulate the plan's guiding principles in order to accommodate speculators.
Horn's justification was that "downzoning" deprived property owners of their development rights. Of course, the properties that had received lower zoning were largely unbuildable, requiring taxpayer subsidized infrastructure in the backcountry.
More significantly, the two biggest developments affected ---- Merriam Mountains and Accretive ---- were not downzoned at all. To the contrary: Under the previous general plan, these rugged, rural properties were properly zoned for a fraction of the houses that the developers wanted.
The property rights that Horn, Roberts and Cox have hurt are those of existing residents, whose lifestyle and choice of location was premised on the county living up to its general plan.
How can Horn justify using taxpayer dollars to hand over an enormous gift of increased density, and therefore profits, to his developer buddies?
As for taxpayer protection, on June 20 Roberts did an end run. Normally, landowners must pay their own costs when seeking an amendment to the general plan. The public had been advised via the Agenda that a super-majority of four votes would be required to increase the current budget to approve funds to trump the new General Plan.
When Roberts realized that Pam Slater-Price and Dianne Jacob would not go along with his scheme, he left the meeting while public testimony was still in progress, and quietly directed staff to add the $1.56 million to the budget. He knew that this maneuver would only require three votes.