Board schedules Feb. 29 meeting
By JOE NAIMAN
Although county counsel believes county supervisors did not violate the state’s open meeting law in December, the supervisors on Feb. 7 vacated their Dec. 7 action and scheduled a Feb. 29 meeting to address their actions on the Red Tape Reduction Task Force and other task force recommendations.
The vote came after Californians Aware filed suit against the San Diego County Board of Supervisors challenging the Dec. 7 vote. Californians Aware argued that the posted agenda recommended only accepting the task force’s report, but the supervisors voted to implement some of its recommendations
County Counsel Tom Montgomery told the board it has the right to amend motions if an item is placed on the agenda and county staff does not believe that the open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, was violated. After Californians Aware filed suit, the county supervisors said that vacating the Dec. 7 decision and rescheduling the matter would be preferable to spending time and money on litigations.
Under the Brown Act, no action can be taken on an item unless it has been placed on a publicly-noticed agenda. The law does not require the public board to adopt the staff recommendation, said Montgomery.
“The public should not be relying on the action the chief administrative officer is recommending,” said Montgomery. “Your board may take any type of action.”
The item noticed for the Dec. 7 meeting had two recommendations form the chief administrative officer: to receive the task force’s report and to direct staff to evaluate the recommendation the board selected and report back within 60 days. The county supervisors directed county staff to implement some of the 35 recommendations while directing staff to evaluate the rest of the recommendations and return within 60 days.
The task force was created in April 2011 to examine and streamline the land development permitting process to improve efficiency.
The most controversial of the 35 recommendations was to eliminate or significantly restrict community planning and sponsor groups. Proposed changes if planning and sponsor groups are not eliminated include limiting their scope of review to the preparation and amendments of the general and community plans, providing a senior level planning and county counsel at each planning or sponsor group meeting, eliminating free appeals if a planning or sponsor group appeals a county planning commission decision to the supervisors, and setting term limits to reduce terms from four to two years and limiting planning group members to two terms in a 10-year period and reducing to seven the number of planning or sponsor group members.
In both the elimination and restriction proposal, applicants for discretionary projects would still need to prepare a Public Participation Plan to inform community residents, and at least one publicly-noticed meeting in the community would be required.
The county has 26 planning and sponsor groups. Among them is the 15-member Ramona Community Planning Group.
Members of a planning group are elected by voters within the community planning area and must be residents of that planning area. Sponsor group members are appointed by the county supervisors after being recommended by the sponsor group and are not required to live in the planning area.
The county established planning and sponsor groups to encourage a level of citizen participation in the community planning process.
The county hosted a Feb. 2 meeting with representatives from the planning advisory groups. The next day planning group chairs in District 2 met with County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents the district that includes Ramona. The representatives agreed to alternatives to present to the supervisors, if need be, to persuade them to retain community planning groups.