The board’s unanimous vote is the next step in updating the San Joaquin County General Plan, the framework for developing county land most recently overhauled in 1992.
The update mirrors large portions of the older plan, which focused residential growth on cities and tried to preserve agricultural land by discouraging development in unincorporated county areas. Mountain House was the lone exception, which was created specifically as a housing hub.
Supervisors’ preferred general plan update was cobbled together from four alternatives that have been discussed over the past several months.
It prioritizes preserving agricultural land, encouraging employment in unincorporated county areas and ensuring all development has adequate water, sewer and other infrastructure.
According to San Joaquin County Community Development Department Director Kerry Sullivan, those policies could boost the county’s property and sales tax revenue by fostering commercial and industrial growth along major transportation routes.
“That’s been no secret,” Sullivan said. “(Supervisors) like the idea of creating tax revenue and creating jobs.”
Limiting new residential growth in unincorporated land could also save the county from future financial burdens by eliminating the need to create new Community Service Areas, districts overseen by the board of supervisors that provide services to outlying areas that don’t have access to city infrastructure.
There are more than 100 such areas already in San Joaquin County, and according to Sullivan the county often has to step in to make sure there is enough money to properly run them when the districts’ residents do not approve fee increases.
Preserving agricultural land, however, is more complicated than mandating it in the county’s general plan.
Sullivan said the county has little influence over cities annexing and expanding into county land — a process controlled by the independent Local Agency Formation Commission.
According to Sullivan, the county could try to convince LAFCo to support proposals that fit the county’s general plan and oppose those that don’t. Negotiating property tax splits between the county and cities in newly annexed areas that are favorable to the county is another way the county could encourage compact city growth, Sullivan said.
Three items that will not be part of the general plan update going forward were recommendations from the County Planning Commission that would have opened new rural areas to residential and commercial growth while also recommending agricultural land be preserved.
Supervisors, including 3rd District representative Steve Bestolarides, took shots at the commission for apparently contradicting itself before eliminating the items.
“It kind of seems like it’s not consistent with the vision,” Bestolarides said. “You either do or you don’t — it’s that easy.”
As part of the general plan process, the supervisors received more than 70 requests from landowners to have agricultural land — including 10 lots on the outskirts of Mountain House — rezoned to allow other uses as part of the general plan update.
Mountain House Community Services District Director Jim Lamb, speaking as a resident and not an elected official, told supervisors it seemed landowners were jumping through a loophole to increase the value of their holdings.
“It seems to me if they get lucky enough to get and amend (their land use restrictions) from you directly, it immediately increases the value of their land,” Lamb said. “It allows these people to sort of skirt this process.”
Supervisors will listen to landowners’ requests at another general plan meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26.
An environmental impact review will document the anticipated effects of the proposed updated general plan on the county, and several more public hearings will be held before supervisors give the plan their final endorsement.
• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a glance
• WHAT: San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors meeting
• WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19
• WHERE: San Joaquin County administration building, 44 N. San Joaquin St.
• DETAILS: Chairman Ken Vogel, Vice Chairman Bob Elliott, supervisors Steve Bestolarides, Larry Rhustaller and Carlos Villapudua were all present.