At issue are the East County and San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commissions. The two bodies were created to work locally with developments in unincorporated areas. According to Conservation and Development Director Catherine Kutsuris, the workloads of these commissions has decreased as towns became incorporated and began to handle their own planning duties.
The two commissions normally come up for renewal each four years, but last year District 3 Supervisor Mary Piepho suggested a one year renewal. Piepho's reasoning was that Alamo was in the midst of an incorporation debate and if Alamo became a town, then there would be even less need for the commission.
Incorporation was defeated, however the board did approve the creation of a Municipal Advisory Council for Alamo. A county committee earlier this year had recommended that if a MAC were created, that planning chores for Alamo could be handled by the County Planning Commission. Both commissions face an Oct. 6 sunset date, unless the board approved an extension.
Kutsuris said that both the County Planning Commission and the East County Regional Planning Commission recommended allowing the sunset to take place for both commissions due to the decreased workload. Several Alamo residents as well as members of the San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission requested that it be granted the extension.
Resident Michael Cameron said that with the MAC just being established, it made more sense to keep the commission in order to see just how the two would function together.
"I would move slowly," Cameron suggested. "I would think you'd want to leave a planning agency in place for an unspecified amount of time."
Former County Supervisor Eric Hazeltine addressed the board, saying that the time has come to allow the regional commissions to expire. Hazeltine said that there are two San Ramon area representatives on the County Planning Commission so there is local representation. He added that the argument of leaving Alamo as is no longer is effective.
"The community of Alamo has had the chance on more than one occasion to take control and they've voted it down," he stated. "It's time to let the area planning commissions sunset."
Supervisors discussed the issue, with the conversation circling around the declining workload coupled with the need to streamline county government. District 2 Supervisor Gayle Uilkema said she understands how a community may want "their own" planning commission, but the fact remains that the situation in Contra Costa County is changing and so must county government.
"Things change, times change and I think the message we are receiving is that governments need to change," she said.
Supervisors voted 5-0 not to extend the sunset date for both commissions, with the proviso that they would craft a policy where meetings of the Planning Commission dealing with local area issues would be held in those areas, in order to allow residents a chance to be a part of the process without having to travel to Martinez for the meeting.