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Developer influence: Set record straight

By: Larry Farinha Placer County Planning Commisioner
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Many letters to the editor about campaign contributions imply that “big developer” money buys big development. This propaganda is not true in the Placer County I know. For anyone to imply that a Supervisor, any Supervisor, has the power to approve development projects on his own authority because he has received financial contributions is ludicrous at best. We have a very good system in place to see to it that no supervisor has that kind of power and influence. Let me explain. Every proposed major development must go through the same process; there are no shortcuts or special privileges given to anyone. The first step is to make an application to the Placer County Planning Department. There a pre planning meeting to review whether the proposed project fits within the legal parameters of county zoning. Then a checklist is used to complete the application. If the project is within the zoning ordinance allowances, there will be many meetings for design requirements and reviews. Once the design is established and all environmental documents are completed, there are public hearings and presentations to the appropriate Municipal Advisory Councils. Throughout the process many homeowners, businesses, community groups and individuals can and do offer their complaints and suggestions before a variety of public meetings. Supervisor Kranz advises developers and community groups to talk to each other. Finally, the project is presented to the Placer County Planning Commission. This is a seven-member commission of non-county employees appointed by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. The public and the commissioners scrutinize the project in a public hearing and the commissioners then vote on the project. The results of that vote are sent to the Board of Supervisors as a recommendation to either approve or deny the project. The Board of Supervisors then votes to approve the Planning Commissions recommendation. If the Planning Commission denies a project, it can be appealed directly to the Board of Supervisors. The end result is that for a project to be approved, it must first get passed the Planning Commission with a majority vote before the Supervisors ever see it. In the event of an appeal, there still must be a majority vote of the Board of Supervisors for it to be approved. A planning commissioner has one vote out of seven. A supervisor one in five. And just to set the record straight – as a planning commissioner, I have never donated to any supervisor’s campaign, nor have I ever been influenced by any supervisor as to how I should vote on any project. My fellow commissioners tell me they have never been told how to vote. I know I haven’t.