Ten Key Questions About the Proposed Placer County Conservation Plan (PCCP)
Programs such as the PCCP are increasingly seen as a solution to problems associated with project-by-project review of land development and the means for preserving agriculture and open space. In Northern California there are eight similar efforts under way, including efforts in the counties of Yuba, Sutter, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara.
The PCCP would replace the current highly fragmented, time consuming and expensive project-by-project review approach to permits and mitigation that is required by law if the land for development holds conservation values such as vernal pools, blue oak woodlands, etc. The plan would set aside a specific contiguous area in Western Placer County for agriculture and conservation purposes. If successful the PCCP would meet the requirement of State and Federal endangered species acts and the clean water act among others and assign this permit authority to Placer County. This could highly streamline the process for developers and at the same time protect a large area for conservation.
The cost of purchasing and maintaining parcels in the designated conservation area would be born by developers as they meet the usual mitigation requirements but such conservation easements would be made in the designated reserve. Mitigation purchases by developers in the reserve area could only occur with willing sellers who own land in this proposed reserve area. The PCCP is a 50 year plan to guide development growth in Western Placer County and to provide 60,000 acres as a contiguous conservation area in District Two.
Is the PCCP a fair system
The PCCP is intended to provide all those who are regulated with one common and consistently applied set of regulations. It does not change the current zoning or land use designations on a given property of property owners in the proposed designated reserve area. The only restrictions that would occur for the land owner is if he or she chooses to sell a conservation easement on the property for mitigation purposes for the fair market value.
What are the finances needed to fund the PCCP, and who will pay these monies
The estimates for a fee title acquisition were derived from the COST Analysis for PCCP Alternatives-Revised Draft, November 1, 2006, and prepared by Hausrath Economic Group (HEG). The Preliminary PCCP Financing Plan Discussion, dated July 11, 2005, provides a range of public and private financing alternatives for implementation of the one-time and ongoing costs associated with the PCCP. The final PCCP Finance Plan cannot be prepared until such time that the conservation strategy is complete, which in turn is based upon the selection of a reserve map.
The cost of the PCCP will be born by the beneficiaries of the PCCP regulatory relief who will pay these permit and mitigation costs just as the same as they do now. Ultimately, that cost could, and will most likely be, transferred to the future homeowners, businesses and local government in the form of new infrastructure. These costs are borne by these same beneficiaries today under the current status quo regulatory environment.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has succeeded for years by acquiring a patchwork of mitigation lands. Why can we not continue to proceed in that manner
In the past wildlife agencies have allowed or even encouraged a patchwork of reserve areas as a means of acquiring land for conservation/mitigation. The PCCP must have an integrated conservation area for a wide-range of species, some of which require a watershed-level approach to conservation (i.e. salmon/steelhead). It is not possible to obtain the regulatory coverage of the PCCP with a number of small, patchy, habitats that serve the need of just one or two species.
Why does some of the proposed reserve area include farmland off Highway 65 in the Lincoln area when there are no trees or blue oaks
The property in question is designated Agriculture 80 and is zoned Farm 80-acre minimum. The property is included because of the existing land use designations that provide for the conservation of the value of the property as farmland. Even without listed species being present, the conservation of farmland consistent with the General Plan of Placer County policies provides for a large reserve area of contiguous properties. If the property owner were willing to sell for conservation purposes, the grassland habitat on the property provides important habitat for a number o bird species including the listed Swainson’s Hawk.
Why are we protecting vernal pools? Some view these features as "nature’s cesspools" that create habitat for breeding mosquitoes
The vernal pools are regulated in Placer County because of the presence of federally-listed endangered species, federal regulations related to wetlands and because of their rare native plants. As such they are considered a rare and biological rich environment that is unique to a few parts of the world.
While vernal pools do accumulate water as part of the hydrological cycle, typically vernal pools are drained before mosquitoes breed. Other perennial and seasonal marshes may result mosquito breeding but it not common for such problems to be associated with vernal pools.
Why not protect the existing vernal pools and allow development in areas where there are no vernal pools
To avoid impacts to vernal pools altogether would require a significant modification to the growth patterns that have been contemplated for western Placer County since 1967 when the County adopted its first General Plan.
The adopted General Plans of the County and the City of Lincoln, as well as the proposed sphere of influence of Lincoln, show that the logical pattern for growth is to the west of existing services. This is an area with a significant number of vernal pools.
Why are the blue oaks included in the proposed reserve area
The primary need for oak mitigation is associated with the recently amended State law related to CEQA. This statue requires counties to mitigate the conversion of oak woodlands when such conversions will have a significant effect on the environment. Additionally, the county’s General Plan, Community Plans and the Tree Preservation Ordinance require conservation/mitigation to oak woodlands.
Does being within the proposed reserve area preclude me from filing a development application just as I can today under the current system
Land located within the non-reserve proposed area will be encouraged to mitigate in the reserve area. The PCCP reserve area does not change the general plan or zoning designations on any property either inside or outside the reserve country. If a property were located within the reserve boundary, a successful application for a general plan amendment and/or rezoning would effectively remove the property from any potential conservation status.
It is possible that any application for such changes, when a property is located within the proposed reserve it may be subject to additional review if the development of such property caused the viability of the reserve area to be at risk.
Is there some type of incentive program that would encourage property owners to be included in the reserve area
All property owners who participate in the PCCP reserve area would be compensated based upon the fair market value of the property rights that they relinquish should they choose to do so. An outright sale of the property is also an option rather than retaining ownership but selling a conservation easement to a developer for mitigation.
What is the status of the PCCP now
Placer County Planning Department continues to gather information and recently reported back to the Board on the public’s opinion about the various alternatives and the PCCP work program in general. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on January 23, 2007 to move forward with the PCCP. The motion included creating an ad-hoc committee and adopting a map to begin negotiations with the regulatory agencies.
For additional information, please visit Placer County’s Community Development Resources Agency (CDRA) - Placer County Conservation Plan