“Where do you see yourself in 20 years” is a popular question to gauge goals and values, and the State of California mandates that cities keep an up-to-date version of the answer as a General Plan.
Council member Pierre Neu requested the council discuss the current plan, which, developed in 1992, is well past its 20-year expiration date. City Manager John Donlevy claims the cost for doing an update is too high for the city, and is only feasible with money from large-scale development, namely annexation and development of land north of Grant Avenue and east of Railroad Avenue.
According to Donlevy, the city still owes about $500,000 from creating the current General Plan.
“As far as our building codes and our fire codes, we’re up to date,” said Donlevy, “We have a lot of design documents, we have our form-based code, we have our Downtown Master Plan.”
Donlevy saw the General Plan as a functioning tool for the city, despite its age.
Donlevy also claimed an imbalance in jobs versus housing in Winters resulted in a lack of funding for improving the General Plan.
“It’s really easy to build houses, it’s not easy to create jobs,” said Donlevy, “One of the things people are concerned about: is it going to be growth-inducing for the city?
“We’re not ready to move forward with any type of annexation talk, which represents the next big leap for the city’s General Plan.”
Resident Kate Laddish implored the council to get serious about updating the document regardless of development. She said new requirements from the state need to be reflected in Winters’ plan.
“Major changes include new sections on environmental justice, healthy communities, equitable and resilient communities, economic development and climate change,” she said. “My sense is that there’s a lot of resources available.”
Kate Kelly also took the opportunity to weigh in on the plan. A major concern for her was the increasing liability the city was opening itself to by continuing to govern with an aging playbook.
“A lot of small jurisdictions bubblegum and Band-Aid their general plans together for a long time,” said Kelly. “There’s a tipping point where you’re past the point of bubblegum.”
Mayor Wade Cowan asked Donlevy what drove the cost for an update.
“You’re going to hire a lot of consultants, you’re going to hire a lot of attorneys… we would go through and do a very significant update (with annexation). In a lot of ways, we’re waiting,” said Donlevy.
“Why do we have to reinvent the wheel? Aren’t there General Plans we can look at and take pieces of those and not have to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars?” asked Neu.
“It’s the blueprint of your city. It’s unique,” said Donlevy dismissing the proposal. “When they’re doing an update of their General Plan, they’re adding thousands of acres,” he said of other cities.
He reaffirmed his stance that planning is possible only with increasing development.
“If we do it on their nickel, is it our plan or their plan?” asked Neu.
Council member Bill Biasi agreed with Donlevy that the plausible source of money would come from development. When the city faced millions of dollars in Water treatment updates for Chromium 6, he reminded the council that the city didn’t qualify as a disadvantaged community and it was going to have to come up with all of the funding.
Neu asked Donlevy to report on General Plan progress at the end of each meeting.
“It’s the elephant in the room, it needs to be done,” conceded Donlevy.
“I know people are sensitive (about development) I don’t like sticking my hand in that blender. That’s part of what we’re supposed to do is set the future of where we want to go.”
City council presented resident and owner of the 2017 business of the year Gwen Pisani with her award from the League of California Cities as a 2018 “Woman of Persistence.”
“This is one persistent woman, it’s a big part of why Anytime Fitness was Business of the Year last year,” said Cowan.
“She is a cheerleader for philanthropy and positive change,” said Council Member Jesse Loren.
“Gwen is a woman of persistence and most importantly she’s a champion of persistence in other people,” said resident Cheryl Moore in a written comment.
Jesus Marquez of the Winters Fire Department gave a presentation on the cadet program, which provides high school students an opportunity to work with the department to develop life skills and possibly prepare for a future in firefighting.
“It teaches teamwork,” said Marquez. “How to work at the same pace and communicate with each other.”
The department currently mentors five cadets who volunteer and learn about the field for the duration of the school year and produce their senior capstone project from the experience.