When a majority of Monterey County voters neither endorsed the slow-growth Measure A nor the big-growth Measure C on the June ballot, residents were left with uncertainty about the future of land use in Monterey County. One bright spot was the defeat, once again, of the sprawling Rancho San Juan golf subdivision's first phase called "Butterfly Village."
What happens next? The Board of Supervisors is talking "compromise" between the two plans. Given the track record of developers getting their way in Monterey County, the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club has many concerns:
• The subcommittee of Planning Commissioners shaping the compromise is weighted in favor of development. Only one member is from a district that voted in favor of the slow growth plan. The four other subcommittee members are from the districts that opposed the slow-growth plan. Of these, two were very active promoters of the Supervisors' big growth plan. Given the history of how development interests are favored in this county, it is understandable that environmentalists are not optimistic about the outcome of this process.
• Existing resources necessary for development are already stressed. Wells, rivers, and aquifers are going dry or being polluted by salt water intrusion. Critical commuter roads are already gridlocked. We are already losing farmland to subdivisions, and there is only a finite supply of farmland. So-called new farmland is only a conversion of range lands to vineyards. Would any compromise heed existing limits on growth such as prohibitions on development and cultivation on steep slopes? Would a compromise respect the carrying capacity of the land?
Notably the public recognizes that there are reality-based constraints on development as they demonstrated when residents from throughout the county helped create the 12 Guiding Objectives in the early days of the General Plan Update process. Unfortunately this wisdom was jettisoned by the Supervisors in GPU4.
Will the Supervisors finally take a stand in favor of the facts? Unless the next version of the General Plan really deals with the finite nature of existing resources, it will drag the key indicators of human and environmental health further downward. The Chapter will continue to raise this reality to our decision-makers.