General plan EIR ready for public review

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Supervisors approved lowering the minimum level of service required in the draft of the general plan. Future county roads will only need to maintain a level of service D.

The environmental impact review for the San Benito County general plan update is slated to be released on Friday to begin a 45-day comment period that will end on April 8, according to County Planning Director Gary Armstrong.
At Tuesday’s board of supervisors’ meeting, supervisors approved a transfer from a contingency fund to cover the final payment of $67,000 to Mintier Harnish, the consulting firm hired to complete the general plan. But supervisors pulled the consent agenda item in order to discuss the possibility of recouping costs and restoring the money to the contingency fund in the future.
Armstrong said the consultant originally estimated it would cost $135,000 to complete the general plan. The EIR was originally expected to be released in mid-September, but was delayed as supervisors requested a change of level of service for county streets – a rating that guides requirements for streets that can influence traffic flow. Then supervisors negotiated with Mintier Harnish to settle on a final payment to complete the general plan update.
“We got it down to $67,000 – almost 50 percent from where they started,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said planning staff members would be helping with the public comment period and responses so the consultant services do not exceed the final payment.
Supervisor Anthony Botelho described the final payment for a contract that exceeded the original bid by more than $382,000 a pill that would be easier to swallow if they knew they could recoup some of the costs.
“I want to structure it where we can pay it back from that fund,” said Supervisor Anthony Botelho.
At the heart of the discussion was a proposed impact fee ordinance that would collect fees on future developments to cover the cost of the current general plan update and potentially future general plan updates.
Supervisor Margie Barrios said she wanted to ensure any impact fee that is approved – an item that was not on Tuesday’s agenda but will be discussed at future meeting – will be enough to recoup the final costs of the general plan.
Auditor Joe Paul Gonzalez said whether or not the fee could be used for costs that have already been incurred would largely be dependent on how the fee is structured – whether or not it is an impact fee or service fee.
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer suggested the supervisors delay the transfer of funds until they have a chance to review the general plan fee ordinance at a future meeting. But Armstrong said since the supervisors had approved the $67,000 addendum to Mintier Harnish’s contract in December, the consultant has been accruing costs and has submitted bills.
The supervisors agreed to approve the transfer of funds and discuss a way in which to ensure the fee ordinance allows them to recoup past expenditures at a future meeting.
“The real issue is going to be are we going to get reimbursed,” said Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz.
General Plan by the numbers
• $815,630 approved in February 2009
• $1,130,657 amended in April 2010 to include cost of public participation, advisory committee and EIR components
• $67,000 approved in Dec. 2012 to cover public comment responses or other additional costs with a signed contract that there will be no additional charges to the county
• $1,197,657 total cost of general plan update

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