El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago opened a public workshop on Meyers’ draft area plan with an apology.
Santiago is sorry for what she calls a planning exercise that envisioned a “catalyst project” to show how private development could bring improved infrastructure and technology to Meyers.
Created by consultant One Globe, the concept was not well received and has taken a life of its own, sparking fears that it would be approved or pursued as part of the area plan.
“I caused a lot of angst, anxiety, fear, all kinds of things in this community, even some divisiveness. For that I am truly, truly sorry, and I take full responsibility,” Santiago told the nearly 200 people at Wednesday’s workshop. “The catalyst project is dead. You have my word.”
Some people applauded. Others groaned about $25,000 in taxpayer money “down the drain.”
The rest of the two-hour workshop focused on the 150-page draft Meyers Area Plan and how it compares to an existing Meyers Community Plan, adopted in 1993. The area plan includes building and development standards, land use boundaries and an array of priority projects including new trails and bike paths, watershed restoration projects and Highway 50 corridor improvements.
Much of the discussion focused on height and density standards and a two-part incentive program that would waive some county fees and allow taller, denser development if projects meet enough requirements.
The existing Meyers Community Plan allows building heights up to 42 feet, subject to 24 pages of ordinances and scenic highway corridor restrictions, as well as densities of 40 hotel rooms per acre and 15 apartments or condos per acre.
The draft area plan would allow building heights up to 35 feet, subject to only a couple pages of ordinances and scenic corridor restrictions, and densities of 30 hotel rooms per acre and 20 apartments or condos per acre.
The incentive program would allow buildings up to 45 feet and an additional 10 hotel rooms and five apartments or condos per acre.
To qualify for a waiver of county fees, projects would have to provide public parking with access to the Pat Lowe trail, exceed energy efficiency standards, improve community aesthetics, provide pedestrian paths or other public improvements and exceed stormwater quality standards.
To qualify for the greater heights and densities, project would have to meet those requirements and provide either three low or moderate income housing units, public transit facilities or parking, restore 1,500 square feet of stream environment zone in Meyers, build only zero net energy buildings, or implement new technology determined to provide significant environmental or community benefit.
About 33,000 square feet of commercial floor area, 27 tourist accommodation units and eight residential units are presently available in Meyers. Any additional development rights would have to be transferred in from other areas.
The incentive program was included as a way to encourage private businesses to accomplish public goals as part of their projects, said Adam Lewandowski, a planner with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
“That’s one of the most controversial parts of the plan and something we want your feedback on,” Lewandowski said.
Santiago urged people to comment on the plan and said all comments will be posted on the county website and responded to. After an 18-month process, the Meyers Area Plan is tentatively set for consideration by El Dorado County in April and May and by TRPA in May and June.
An advisory council of volunteers helped craft the area plan. The council would become a formal advisory group to review projects and make recommendations to the county planning commission and county supervisors.
Santiago and others stressed there is still time for people to read the plan, comment on it and make changes. A workshop on March 19 will focus on public comments and proposed changes. That could include reducing height and density standards, scrapping the incentive program, adding new priority projects or adding language to discourage large developments.
“We’ll do a check and say this is what we heard, these are the revisions we’re thinking about and the revisions you want in the plan. We’ll keep doing that until we reach a point where we have good consensus on the plan. But at some point we have to cut it off. We can’t satisfy everybody, but let’s get the majority of these issues resolved,” Santiago said.
Meanwhile, county planning staff will talk about the draft plan with groups that schedule a “chat with a planner” session, Santiago said.
Wednesday’s workshop got contentious at several points. Some people said they want to just leave the existing Meyers Community Plan in place. If some people are perfectly content with things are in Meyers, that’s great, resident Steve Bannar said at Wednesday’s workshop. The community has a lot to be proud of, including its recent Olympic medalists, but it could stand to see some improvements. That is what the area plan is trying to facilitate and people should help with the process, Bannar said.
“Concentrate on the positive and get involved,” he said. “Everyone is welcome to have an opinion, but we have got to move forward.”