Each of the five counties’ land use planning activities and procedures was evaluated as part of the 1998 University of California Cooperative Extension’s (UCCE) assessment of the Five Counties policies and practices and their impacts on water quality and salmonid habitat and populations. Overall, with a few exceptions, the assessment concluded that county policies did not generally provide specific protections for salmonids and their habitats. It also found that there were several protections on the books but not being used and some beneficial practices that are not documented. In many of the rural regions of the 5C Program, much of the land is publicly owned, leaving a relatively small portion available for development. Because of the rugged nature of the region, some development is typically constrained by terrain and natural features, making low impact development challenging in certain areas.
Since the original 5C assessment, some of the county general plans or policies have been improved to include protections. For example, two of the five counties have adopted grading ordinances (Del Norte and Humboldt), while two others have worked on draft ordinances or equivalent protections. Many counties have incorporated tools designed to protect and maintain healthy natural resources and wildlife populations into its various policies. Flexible design standards and reduced property setbacks have sometimes been used to retain stream buffers while meeting housing densities. Del Norte County for example, has introduced protections into its General Plan and policies such as the hillside development standards and flexibility for minimum lot size to allow cluster development. Humboldt's recently updated General Plan also has significant new natural resource protections. For the most part, this has been the result of each individual jurisdiction’s initiative.
Below are some examples of measures the counties have taken to protect natural resources while balancing development needs:.
With the significant progress of other program elements such as the county roads sediment source DIRT inventory, county road maintenance manual, sediment reduction program, and fish passage improvement program, the land use element is now one of the aspects of the 5C scope of work that will likely become more of a focus. Workshops for land use planners have been held to identify and discuss current land us planning issues faced by the counties. 5C staff, in coordination with member county planners, will also work on developing model tools to assist interested landowners in low impact development techniques.
One of the areas that the 5C Program has recently targeted is the management of stormwater through best management practices to meter and reduce runoff. Such practices also reduce the negative water quality impacts to streams and fish habitat,
flooding, and in many cases, the cost of stormwater treatment and infrastructure. They are aesthetically pleasing
and have been shown to increase real estate values. These practices are availble on the Stormwater Management page.
For more information on 5C land use planning work, contact us.
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