City staff present development work plan to Council

Members of the public lined up to along the walls of a crowded conference room to make public comments at the Joint Land Use and Planning Workshop held at the Public Safety Center Aug. 21. Eighteen members of the public spoke, and controversy followed the removal of comments from the workshop’s minutes at the Oct. 1 City Council meeting.

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Two items related to the city-held Joint Land Use and Planning Workshop sparked continued debate over development and transparency in the City of Winters at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

The first item was the 2019 Planning Work Program developed by City Contract Planner Heidi Tschudin in response to input from council members and the public related to the General Plan and the controversial North Area annexation received at the August workshop.

Tschudin, who led the workshop for the city in response to public outcry over private talks with a developer interested in a residential project in North Winters, presented a five-point plan to address controversial topics.

Included in the work plan, which could span over the course of 30 months, are goals to improve public outreach, conduct an adequacy review of the General Plan, implement  required updates, establish a clear picture of the city’s financial future, provide regular North Area planning updates to the public and the City Council, and to develop a Climate Action Strategy and Plan.

City Manager John W. Donlevy Jr. said updates to General Plan policies like housing and climate are mandated by the state, which may provide funding for associated projects.

“If you talk to anyone working for the state of California they will tell you lack of housing and homelessness are crippling California cities,” Donlevy said.

To that effect, the city may qualify for funding incentives, which could include $225,000 from the state and an additional $100,000 grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments for the planning process with the end goal being expedition of housing production.

Tschudin said the work plan was an effort to incorporate the views of council members and the community into city policy, while respecting the complicated planning process, including the practical and legal limitations she’d argued at the workshop.

“We listened very carefully to the council and members of the community,” Tschudin said.

“What we’ve tried to do is craft the beginnings of a fiscally responsible work plan that’s responsive to what we heard at the Aug. 21 workshop. A lot of what we heard that day was about all the different rules and procedures that affect this part of the process, and we have to be mindful of that process as we proceed through these steps. But we do think we have the start of something that makes a lot of sense moving forward based on what we’ve heard.”

Tschudin also took the opportunity to debunk a rumor that she was employed by developer Bellvue North, saying that she had worked in the public sector for more than 20 years.

Council Member Jesse Loren criticized the work plan for what she said was a failure to specify that it dealt largely with the North Area annexation, something she said was not in line with the plan’s goals of transparency.

“I’d like to acknowledge a lot of work has gone into this, but it doesn’t really say ‘North Area Development,’ Loren said. “I think if we’re going to respect what we heard at that meeting. I was a little surprised that it wasn’t clear.”

Members of the public also raised concerns over specifics of the plan and public involvement.

Susan Hamilton criticized the plan for lacking specifics on water usage, preservation of agricultural land and air quality.

Kate Laddish said she’d like to see more details on how the public will be involved in the General Plan adequacy review.

A minute dispute

Council Member Jesse Loren also raised concerns over city staff transparency in moving forward on the work plan, particularly after their last-minute decision to remove public comments from the workshop’s minutes—a sentiment echoed by members of the public.

Loren, who told the Express she’d received complaints from members of the public, made a successful motion to remove an item to approve the workshop’s minutes from the Consent Calendar to discussion.

Council members debated ways to include descriptions of the 18 public comments made over the course of an hour during the three-hour Aug. 21 workshop. Donlevy argued the descriptions of public comments had raised protests from some of the commenters, who said they were misrepresented in the initially published minutes, and that correcting them to reflect what commenters said they meant to say would create an undue amount of work for staff. He also said given the publicly posted video of the workshop, inclusion of specific comments was not necessary in the interest of transparency.

Council members debated if they needed to include the minutes and give commenters a chance to clarify via written public comments at a future meeting, or if the posted video of the meeting was sufficient to make their comments public record. Full video of the meeting can be found on the City of Winters YouTube Channel. Ultimately, council members tabled the discussion for their next meeting Oct. 15.

hop. A lot of what we heard that day was about all the different rules and procedures that affect this part of the process, and we have to be mindful of that process as we proceed through these steps. But we do think we have the start of something that makes a lot of sense moving forward based on what we’ve heard.”

Tschudin also took the opportunity to debunk a rumor that she was employed by developer Bellvue North, saying that she had worked in the public sector for more than 20 years.

Council Member Jesse Loren criticized the work plan for what she said was a failure to specify that it dealt largely with the North Area annexation, something she said was not in line with the plan’s goals of transparency.

I’d like to acknowledge a lot of work has gone into this, but it doesn’t really say ‘North Area Development,’ Loren said. “I think if we’re going to respect what we heard at that meeting. I was a little surprised that it wasn’t clear.”

Members of the public also raised concerns over specifics of the plan and public involvement.

Susan Hamilton criticized the plan for lacking specifics on water usage, preservation of agricultural land and air quality.

Kate Laddish said she’d like to see more details on how the public will be involved in the General Plan adequacy review.

A Minute Dispute

Council Member Jesse Loren also raised concerns over city staff transparency in moving forward on the work plan, particularly after their last-minute decision to remove public comments from the workshop’s minutes—a sentiment echoed by members of the public.

Loren, who told the Express she’d received complaints from members of the public, made a successful motion to remove an item to approve the workshop’s minutes from the Consent Calendar to discussion.

Council members debated ways to include descriptions of the 18 public comments made over the course of an hour during the three-hour Aug. 21 workshop. Donlevy argued the descriptions of public comments had raised protests from some of the commenters, who said they were misrepresented in the initially published minutes, and that correcting them to reflect what commenters said they meant to say would create an undue amount of work for staff. He also said given the publicly posted video of the workshop, inclusion of specific comments was not necessary in the interest of transparency.

Council members debated if they needed to include the minutes and give commenters a chance to clarify via written public comments at a future meeting, or if the posted video of the meeting was sufficient to make their comments public record. Full video of the meeting can be found on the City of Winters YouTube Channel. Ultimately, council members tabled the discussion for their next meeting Oct. 15.

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