General Plan Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a General Plan?
State law requires the County to adopt "a comprehensive, long-term general plan for [its] physical development" (Government Code §65300). A General Plan contains official County policy regarding the location of housing, business, industry, roads, parks, and other land uses, protection of the public from noise and other environmental hazards, and conservation of natural resources. The legislative body of the County (i.e., the Board of Supervisors) is responsible for adopting a General Plan and Zoning, Subdivision, and other ordinances to regulate land uses and to carry out the policies of the General Plan.
The cities of Placerville and South Lake Tahoe have their own General Plans. The County's General Plan does not address land use planning for these two cities.
Q: What subjects does the General Plan address?
According to state planning law (Government Code §65302), a General Plan must address seven subjects as they relate to future countywide development: land use, circulation (transportation and traffic), housing, conservation, open space, noise, and safety. A county may also choose to address other subjects in conjunction with or addition to the seven mandatory subjects. In its General Plan, El Dorado County also addresses agriculture and forestry, public services, parks and recreation, and economic development.
Q: What is the process for General Plan adoption?
Normally, after hearings and a recommendation by the Planning Commission, a county Board of Supervisors will adopt a plan by resolution. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors adopted a new County General Plan on July 19, 2004. Subsequent to adoption, a referendum measure that would affect implementation of the plan was filed with the County. On March 8, 2005, the voters upheld the Board’s July 2004 adoption of the new general plan.
Because El Dorado County had been operating under a court imposed writ of mandate, immediate implementation of the 2004 General Plan was not possible until the County returned to court to have the writ discharged. This occurred on August 31, 2005, and the final order was filed wihich permitted the County to begin accepting new applications for development on October 3, 2005.
Q: How are General Plan land-use designations different from Zoning?
Every parcel in the unincorporated areas of El Dorado County is assigned a General Plan Land-Use designation and a Zoning designation. General Plan designations identify generalized permitted land uses such as Commercial or Multifamily Residential. Zoning designations, which by law must be consistent with the General Plan designations, provide more detail on permitted uses and development standards; a single General Plan designation may be consistent with a number of different zoning designations. For example, a parcel with a General Plan designation of Medium Density Residential could potentially have a Zoning designation of residential one acre (R1A), residential two acres (R2A), or residential three acres (R3A) under the current Zoning Ordinance. Once a new General Plan is adopted, the County will pursue an update of the current Zoning Ordinance, as required by state law. The update will address inconsistencies between the General Plan designations and current Zoning designations.
Q: Once the General Plan is adopted, for how long will it be used?
State planning law simply states that a jurisdiction shall "periodically review and revise, as necessary, the General Plan" (Government Code §65103[a]). Once adopted, the County expects the new General Plan to provide guidance through 2025, though regular review may reveal the need for periodic revisions. An exception is the Housing Element, which must be updated every five years pursuant to state law.
Q: How often can the General Plan be amended?
The Board of Supervisors may consider general plan amendments up to four times a year. The 2004 General Plan contains specific policies that limit certain types of amendments, such as amendments to the Community Region Boundaries, but generally the County may accept applications for amendment, or initiate amendments by resolution of the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors at any time. Since the plan was just recently found consistent with the 1999 Court ruling, and an appeal has been filed, the County will be pre-screening proposed amendments prior to processing the applications. This includes a preliminary review by the Planning Commission and a determination by the Board of Supervisors if the proposed amendment is consistent with the general intent of the goals and objectives of the plan.