The City of Jackson will hold its general plan kickoff meeting tonight. I talked with City Planner Susan Peters about what a general plan is, the background of creating parts of a general plan in Jackson, and how you can get involved in the process.
Peters said that the state requires every jurisdiction to have a general plan, which is a blueprint for growth and development. Seven mandated elements comprise a general plan: land use, circulation, housing, open space, safety, noise, and social justice. She explained that many jurisdictions add other components, most commonly economic and historic elements.
“In this case,” Peters added, “we’re sticking to just the mandated ones because we’re using grant funds, which are pretty limited to do this update.”
Jackson has only updated three of its land-use elements in the twenty-first century. In 2008, the city updated the land use and circulation elements. In 2015, the city updated the housing element. The other four general plan elements are decades old. “We need to get on it and get these other elements going,” Peters said, hence today’s kickoff meeting.
The county has already hired the consultancy company De Novo Planning Group, which is based in El Dorado Hills. “They have lots of experience,” Peters explained, “and some of their team members have worked on other projects in the city, including the 2008 land use element update and its associated environmental impact report.”
Peters said that Monday’s meeting is a joint workshop between the planning commission and city council to do three things:
- Educate people about why a general plan is important.
- Communicate why the public needs to be involved.
- Discuss how the planning commission and city council will be expected to participate.
The planning commission and the city council will work together to create the updated general plan, but the city council has the final say. And, Peters said, she doesn’t know what the city council will do because there are three new councilmembers this year. What’s more, no current councilmembers were involved in the 2008 land use and circulation element updates. So, she added, “I don’t know what direction they want to see the city go.”
Growth on the Agenda
Peters said that Jackson businesses should get involved with the general plan process. “The general plan is a blueprint for growth in the area, so if you have an existing business you may want to see some of that growth occur,” she said with a chuckle. And, Peters noted, “traffic and circulation impact businesses, noise impacts businesses, safety issues around the city certainly impacts businesses, so they should get involved.”
She also said that everyone needs to start at the beginning by participating in tonight’s workshop. “This is laying the groundwork and will detail the process,” she added.
Some general plans encourage growth and others discourage it, but Peters isn’t sure where the planning commission or the city council thinks about growth. “I would guess they’re going to want to see some measured growth that’s controlled and appropriate for the city,” she said, “but it’s ultimately their policy call to make.”
Ahead of the workshop, Peters isn’t sure how participation will be managed. “I’m not sure how we’re going to move forward in terms of public participation because COVID is making it extremely difficult, although with everyone getting vaccinated it is helping,” she said. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to do more in-person workshops and meetings.”
Peters noted that in the 2008 update, the city created a citizen committee that was rather large. “We broke the city into neighborhoods,” she explained, “and we made sure we had representation from each neighborhood on that committee that was reviewing the work being done.”
She also noted that money is a limiting factor in community involvement. “If we had all the money in the world, it would be great to do individual meetings in neighborhoods,” Peters said, “but that does get costly, and we are on a pretty tight budget.”
Peters said that she hopes the city will get a good, basic document out of the process that meets all of the federal requirements for a general plan. Then, she said, “in subsequent years we can do smaller updates that pull in a little bit more diversity and add some more elements.”
The updated general plan may also connect with the Amador County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, or CEDS, though Peters isn’t sure to what extent yet. “In terms of economic development from a land-use standpoint, we’re looking at what’s commercially zoned and what’s available for commercial and industrial development,” she said. “So, there may be some policies encouraging cooperation and collaboration with the CEDS study.”
Though the general plan update is required to be completed by December 2022, Peters thinks the plan will be finished sooner because the consultants want to work fast. “The grant money that we got is a non-competitive grant and it was offered to all the jurisdictions and everyone snapped it up,” she explained. “So, the consultant world is very busy doing updates to general plans and zoning ordinances right now. They’re on a fast track to get us done so they can move on to the next one. I’m hoping that by June 2022, we’ll have this update completely done.”
Want to Attend?
Tonight’s workshop will begin at 7:00 p.m. You can attend online or in-person at the Civic Center at 33 Broadway in Jackson. Peters hopes there is a good turnout. What’s more, she said, “I’m hoping that people come to the meeting with an open mind, they’re ready to get an education, and they’re ready to participate in the process.
“It’s an important document and it is the blueprint for the city. We have a great little city here, and we want to emphasize all the good things and try to deal with the constraints in a productive manner. I think everyone needs to come in with an open mind in order to do that.”
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