El Dorado County is lovely – so lovely that it has become an ongoing battle to stop development from swallowing it whole.
Its largest community, El Dorado Hills, already is a stucco suburban patchwork. Developers want zoning changes to add more than 3,000 houses south of Highway 50. Last year, 91 percent of local voters begged the county to block a 1,028-home project on the site of an old golf course in an advisory vote.
Unfortunately, two slow-growth initiatives on June’s local ballot aren’t the answer. Measures E and G may be well-intentioned, but they’re shortsighted and written in a way that will only get them tied up in court.
Measure E would restore the original language of a 1998 law that banned residential projects that add gridlock, and take away county supervisors’ ability to add roads to ease congestion. Measure G would amend the general plan to expand open-space buffers around timber and agricultural land, and ban projects in rural areas without public water sources. Together, they would hamstring control of good projects and complicate compliance with state water and housing laws.
We understand the frustration. Though some developers have worked responsibly to balance the county’s bucolic character with its need for housing, others have for years vowed to protect open space, only to ruin one stunning vista after another. But the solution is electing leaders with a backbone, not planning by ballot box.
Three open seats on the Board of Supervisors offer voters a more useful say on growth, and more room for care and forward thinking. Though El Dorado County government has a long reputation for dysfunction, new voices have recently injected some professionalism.
We recommend a continuation of that trend with Noelle Mattock in District 1, Shiva Frentzen in District 2 and Brian K. Veerkamp in District 3.
District 1: Twice elected to the community services district that governs El Dorado Hills, Mattock gets the challenges facing the county. She also has a master’s degree in public policy from Sacramento State, a useful credential, and grew up in El Dorado Hills.
An excellent alternative is John Hidahl, a retired engineer who has served for more than 30 years on the El Dorado Hills Fire Board as well as in countless community volunteer roles. His understanding of El Dorado Hills dates to its earliest, failed, efforts to incorporate.
Assemblywoman Beth Gaines only recently moved into the district and since 2010 has taken at least $12,000 from the companies trying to develop it. The other candidates – tea party stalwart Steve Ferry and Alan Day, who serves on the irrigation district – are hardworking, but have narrower experience.
District 2: Frentzen fought her way into office in a 2014 special election to replace former Supervisor Ray Nutting. She ran on a message of slow-growth and, to her credit, has largely kept her word, voting against projects that would add nothing but more subdivisions.
If re-elected, the fiscally minded Cameron Park resident vows to do more of the same and diversify the county’s economy by attracting commerce.
Her opponent, winery owner Dave Pratt, takes a more pragmatic but still viable view of growth. He sees openings for affordable housing alongside new businesses as a way to get the county back to fiscal health.
District 3: A retired El Dorado Hills fire chief, Veerkamp has been a calm, rational voice in the current panic over development since he joined the board in 2012. He favors smart growth that’s carefully planned and managed. At times, he has strayed from that philosophy and given in to developers. If re-elected, he should become more independent in his thinking.
His rival, retired Realtor Carol Louis, would stop all local development if she could. But the answer for El Dorado County is thoughtful growth, not no growth.