http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/07/17/residents-express-misgivings-over-alamo-mac


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - July 17, 2009

Residents express misgivings over Alamo MAC

Loss of Regional Planning Board a serious concern

by Geoff Gillette

In the ongoing discussions between District 3 County Supervisor Mary Piepho's office and the residents of Alamo regarding the likely formation of a Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), concerns are beginning to grow over the limited abilities of the advisory council and the possibility of the MAC replacing the San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission.

The issue of a MAC was the main topic at the July 9 meeting of the Alamo Community Council (ACC). Around 35 residents gathered at the Swain House at Hap Magee Ranch Park to hear from District 3 Superintendent Mary Piepho's Chief of Staff Tomi Van de Brooke.

Talks of a MAC have been at the forefront of the ACC's meetings since May, when Supervisor Piepho first announced that she was studying the possibility of a MAC in Alamo. Piepho stated that she waited until after Alamo residents voted against incorporation to begin the process of establishing a MAC.

Over the last two months, residents have raised a number of concerns over the possibility of a MAC, and the July 8 meeting was no exception, with planning taking the forefront. Several residents voiced their displeasure over the possibility that the formation of a MAC could result in the dissolution of the San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission.

The SRVRPC is one of two such bodies in Contra Costa County. It is a five member commission appointed by the Board of Supervisors that acts as the Planning Commission for the unincorporated areas of the San Ramon Valley. At issue is a recommendation handed down by the county's Internal Operations Committee in regards to the SRVRPC. The recommendation states that should a MAC be formed in Alamo that the commission could be disbanded.

Resident Charles Jarrett spoke to the ACC at the meeting, voicing his displeasure at the potential loss of the planning body. He also read a letter from his neighbor Bob Connolly since Connolly was unable to attend. Connolly's letter gave strong support for the commission and said that it would be "short sighted" of the county to dissolve it.

Van de Brooke said that the recommendation of the committee was that it "could" dissolve the commission, not that it would. She stated that it would be up to the Board of Supervisors.

Normally the sunset is considered every four years, but during the discussion last year District 3 Supervisor Mary Piepho requested that the issue be revisited after one year.

A determining factor in whether or not the commission remains is the current economy and the county's financial status. "They will be talking about whether it's worth the dollars to staff the two planning commissions," Van de Brooke explained. "The volume of projects coming through has been reducing. It's that typical financial decision about spending dollars for that extra layer that gives some comfort to residents."

However, when pressed by residents, Van de Brooke was unable to provide figures for the cost of running the mostly volunteer planning commissions or how much would be saved by disbanding it.

She stated that those figures would be made available when the Board of Supervisors discusses the issue in August and urged residents to attend the meeting to get that information and speak on the issue. No date has been set for the supervisors to address the sunset date as of yet.

After over two hours of talking about whether the MAC would replace the SRVRPC, one frustrated resident, who declined to give his name, pointed out that at no time during the discussion was it suggested that there be no MAC. "Am I just whistling in the wind?" the man asked. "Is this just being rammed down our throats?"

He added, "Just because we voted for incorporation, it doesn't mean we voted for a MAC."

One woman, who also declined to be identified, asked, "If you got a majority of people to send you a letter saying we don't want a MAC, would Mary still bring one in?"

Van de Brooke responded, "If 8,000 people sent a letter, Mary would take a good strong look at it."

She then explained that while those in attendance were stating their opposition to a MAC, her office has received e-mails and phone calls supporting the creation of the MAC. "I have to balance your opposition with other people's support and that's how Mary makes a decision," she explained.

Van de Brooke provided those in attendance with a draft copy of the board order to create the MAC. She said she is looking for input on the language before the order goes before the Board of Supervisors.

Asked by audience, two members of the ACC gave their opinions on a MAC. Steve Mick expressed his support for the advisory council, while Mike Gibson said that, as currently envisioned, he could not support a MAC.

"The way it's written right now it seems too limited, too small, too narrow in my opinion," he stated.

A copy of the draft order can be found with the online version of this story at www.danvilleweekly.com.

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