City files suit over county general plan
Porterville want to negotiate differences
The city of Porterville filed a lawsuit in Tulare County Superior Court late Thursday afternoon challenging the recently approved Tulare County General Plan update. The city is also challenging the environment impact study of that document.
“The hope would be (we’d come to an agreement) through continued discussion or worst case through adjudication,” said Porterville city manager John Lollis late Friday in confirming the suit had been filed.
It is no surprise that at least one city filed suit. The county expected lawsuits to be filed and Lollis said he would not be surprised to learn that others had filed suit challenging the controversial document. He said he had heard the state Attorney General’s office, the Sierra Club and several local groups had hinted at legally challenging the plan for county growth for the next 20 years. Friday was the last day legal challenges could be filed.
In short, Lollis said the city has concerns over the county’s plan to have city’s charge an impact fee on new development and give the money to the county; whether the county is truly looking at city centered growth or will it allow growth in rural areas; and development standards in the county.
Lollis stressed it is those development standards that most concern the city. He pointed at “thousands” of residents living on the fringes of the city, and some now annexed into the city, that have individual septic tanks and domestic wells with water unhealthy to drink.
“Are you reading your own press,” Lollis questioned the county. “Are you reading when you develop stuff and put septic tanks and wells it does not work?” he asked.
He call that a “quality of life issue.”
The Board of Supervisors passed the 2030 General Plan Aug. 29 after working on it for nearly 10 years. When it was finally approved, supervisors indicated they expected it to be challenged in court.
The General Plan has been a bone of contention between the county and its cities nearly the entire process. It was also challenged by the state in court and the process had to start again.
In presenting the plan to the board in August, David P. Bryant, county Division manager of Special Projects, and project leader on the GPU, said the plan incorporates everything from an update of a decades-old agricultural land use plan to a plan to address greenhouse gasses.
Bryant described the GPU as a “programmatic policy... which provides for the Board’s future direction”, and that it sets up guidelines that will be applied to individual development projects. The plan itself, however, he continued, does not approve individual developments.
Lollis said the city has specific issues with the plan and by challenging it with a lawsuit, strengthens the city’s bargaining position. “In the same breathe, we will still meet with them and negotiate,” he said.
He said the memorandums of understanding with seven of the county’s incorporated cities over the county’s general plan approved Thursday by the Supervisors is an avenue that can be used to work out the differences.
That action Thursday tentatively ended four years of at times contentious negotiations over language in the county’s recently adopted general plan update, but Lollis hinted then the city was not satisfied with the plan. The Porterville City Council has not approved the MOU.