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General Plan update reveals much about Plumas County

Members of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved a review of the 2019 Draft General Plan Annual Progress Report on March 17.

Plumas County Planning Director Tracey Ferguson was before the board with the draft report as reviewed and updated by members of the Planning Commission.

The report was due to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), and the Housing and Community Development (HCD) by April 1. This is an annual process designed to document the status of the General Plan and the county’s progress with its implementation.

According to Ferguson, “The Annual Progress Report provides local legislative bodies with information regarding the implementation of the General Plan for their city or county.”

By providing the annual progress report to HCD, statutory requirements are reported for housing information, including any local progress in meeting the share of the regional housing needs, according to Ferguson.

It also provides information on local efforts to remove governmental constraints to the development of housing.

Following a recently initiated state code that that all planning commissions file an annual report with the Board of Supervisors and OPR, Ferguson explained what’s contained within the draft report.

Essentially the document provides progress on the implementation and its compliance with the General Plan’s guidelines.

While members of the Planning Commission evaluated the county’s policies and standards in regard to the General Plan, this is a continuing program to ensure the plan is followed.

“It is likely that changing conditions and experience in policy implementation will uncover a number of adopted policies and land use designations requiring modification and the need for written policies on additional subjects,” Ferguson explained in the draft report.

Ferguson added that, “Because the provisions of the General Plan are designed for application to the development of the entire county, text amendments require careful consideration by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors of possible broader implications.”

Along with the report, Ferguson explained that information reflecting the county’s growth rate, based on the number of building permits issued for the preceding year, is included.

“Based upon this information, the Board of Supervisors should consider whether the projected growth rates identified in the Environmental Impact Report for this General Plan have been met or exceeded, and should take whatever action the board deems appropriate, consistent with this General Plan, to ensure that growth occurs as contemplated in the General Plan,” Ferguson explained.

She added that all groups and agencies should participate including property owners and residents in the process.

The General Plan was initially approved in 1984 and the 2035 plan was updated in December 2013. That update began in 2005, according to Ferguson. At that time three optional elements were added to the 2035 General Plan. These include an economics element, an agriculture and forestry element and a water resources element.

The General Plan was tested beginning in January 2014 when High Sierra Rural Alliance filed a lawsuit involving the Environmental Impact Report. Plumas County won that suit last year.

General Plan elements

The purpose of the county’s General Plan is to detail guiding principles for planning topics and is considered the constitution for future development, Ferguson explained.

The state provides direction and specification for the content of the General Plan. These include seven required elements: land use, circulation, conservation, open space, noise, safety and housing.

The elements can be combined or renamed except for the housing element. That element must also be certified by the HCD. The state geologist and CalFire provide oversight on other elements.

Plumas County’s 2035 General Plan includes nine elements: economics, public health and safety are combined, conservation and open space are combined, agriculture and forestry and water resources are added.

Permits, applications, plans and projects

Ferguson provided 2019 Plumas County statistics for permits, applications and significant plans and projects.

Planning and building services processed 1,024 permits last year.

Permits include well and septic permits, building permits, and no fee permits including water heaters, small non-habitable sheds and agriculture buildings, and miscellaneous permits including re-roofing, electrical, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems).

“The Planning Department staff reviews all construction permits for zoning consistency compliance,” Ferguson said.

Of those permits, Plumas had 38 housing units based on final inspections, certificates of occupancy, completion certificates or utility releases.

Of the 38 permits, 29 were for newly constructed single-family detached units; eight for newly constructed single-family mobile home units, and one was converted to a single-family detached unit. This meant a gain for housing stock, Ferguson explained.

In addition, three single-family detached units and three single-family mobile home units were lost to demolition, fire or natural disaster for a total of six units. And one single-family detached unit was converted to something else, meaning it was lost housing stock.

“No single-family attached units or multi-family units were completed or converted,” Ferguson explained in the report.

By comparison, in 2018 the county had 52 housing units completed; in 2017 there were 40; in 2016 there were 39; and in 2015 there were 47. “Which puts the past five-year average of annual housing units completed at 42,” Ferguson said.

In 2019 for the unincorporated portions of the county, 43 units were proposed. None of those were for very-low or low income residents. Twelve units were for moderate income and 30 for above-moderate income.

Looking at the county’s growth rate, Ferguson pointed out that for the 2010 U.S. Census the population total was 17,903 for unincorporated areas. Portola is the only incorporated area in the county.

By 2018 the population in the same areas was down by -0.6 percent to 17,803. The California Department of Finance put the same population at 17,803 as of January 2019. “Once the 2020 U.S. Census data is known, the county will be able to better understand the growth rate over the past decade,” Ferguson said.

That same department anticipates that Plumas County’s population would not change or marginally decline through 2050, “lagging behind the projected positive growth rate of the state as a whole,” she added.

2019 planning applications

The planning department process includes a variety of ministerial and discretionary planning applications. These included special use permits, tentative parcel maps, lot line adjustments and owner initiated mergers, with associated environmental reviews.

According to the breakdown, there were 11 lot line adjustments, 12 owner initiated mergers and three sign permits.

In addition, planning staff performed nine annual mining inspections and investigated two reclamation plan violations.

Public hearings before the Zoning Administrator (who is also Ferguson) included four certificates of compliance, one reversion to acreage, two tentative parcel maps and three special use permits.

Addressing a housing need

The purpose of the 2019-2024 Plumas County Housing Element is to identify housing solutions that address problems and needs throughout the unincorporated areas.

The Regional Housing Needs Plan (RHNP) is mandated by the state and requires regions to address housing issues and needs based on potential future growth projections.

HCD allocates the regional housing needs numbers for Plumas.

The RHNP by income category, for December 2018 through August 2024 is 16 units or two extremely low (below 30 percent of the Area Median Income), three very low (31 to 50 percent of the AMI, three low (51 to 80 percent of the AMI, two moderate (81 to 120 percent of the AMI, and six above moderate (above 120 percent of the AMI).

In preparation for the General Plan update two public workshops were held in June and July 2019 during Planning Commission meetings.

2019 significant plans and projects

Plans and projects included the Plumas County Active Transportation Program that began in 2018 and was approved last year for a pedestrian/bicycle plan.

A second plan was the Plumas County Regional Transportation Commission’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) as required by the state every five years. “The purpose of the plan is to provide Plumas County, including the city of Portola, with a vision supported by transportation goals for a 20-year horizon,” Ferguson said.

Another plan was the Quincy Schoolhouse Project with the Plumas Unified School District. This involved the historic 1905 Quincy schoolhouse.

The final projects were the Grocery Outlet and O’Reilly Auto Parts in Quincy.

A complete progress report is available at the Plumas County Planning Department at 555 Crescent St. in Quincy.

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