STOPPING THE BAD PROJECT BEFORE IT STARTS:
How Planning Systems Work
Population pressures and the energy crisis are probably the biggest threats to our rural desert way of life at this time. The project proposals are coming, and the keys to preserving the special qualities of this area are staying alert, being proactive, working together, and stopping bad projects before they happen. It’s much easier to prevent a poor proposal while it’s still in the conceptual or planning stagesonce it’s been permitted, there’s very little that can be done.
Being Proactive: Help Plan Your Community
The best place to start is getting active with city and county planners now. All jurisdictions have a General Plan that lays out the guidelines for zoning and development, and those General Plans are subject to pressure by citizensand developers!when they are revised periodically. Becoming aware of community planning as practiced by your city, town, or county, and getting involved in a citizen advisory capacity is getting in on the ground floor of preserving what you care about in your area. That’s the best place from which to influence the built character of your community and forestall bad planning and ill-conceived projects. You can view the General Plan and Zoning maps and learn about planning in process at your city, town, or county hall or on-line at their Website; see the Community page for your area for links and contacts.
Empowerment: You DO Have a Right
If you hear of a project that’s already well underway, it still may not be too late to have input. Citizens have a right and, by law, an opportunity to protest or influence many projects during the permitting process. Contact the planning department of your city or county and inquire about the status of the project and how you may have input on its final configuration. If you look at the project plans and feel it’s going to impact traffic on your street, cause excess run-off, grade away unnecessary numbers of native plants, blight local commerce, overburden our schools, pollute our air, or cut off scenic vistas that not only add to the quality of our life but help to, for example, support the local economy through attracting touristsall of these, and many more, are legitimate areas for citizen concern, input, influence, and protest. If you feel dissatisfied with the assistance planning staff gives you or feel that you have concerns that are being shut out, contact MBCA and we may be able to help you navigate the system and have legitimate input into the process.
Many projects in our rural desert area fall under two important pieces of legislation: CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) and NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act). Learn how these Acts might influence a particular project, and how you can use them, in “Learning to Love Environmental Documents: A Brief Guide to NEPA, CEQA, and Alphabet Soup.”
One of the biggest problems we face, especially those of us in the unincorporated areas, is learning about proposals before it’s too late. The County, in particular, is not user-friendly for citizens trying to track development. On our Communities pages and the MBCA blog we try to keep you informed about what’s happening in your specific area. (On the blog, look in the sidebar for the links of particular interest to you.) If you see or hear about any new projects or plans for development in the Basin, please contact us. The more citizens who know about these kinds of plans, the more chance we have of connecting with others who are concerned and of building momentum to influence the proposals before it’s too late. Together we can control the future of our beautiful desert home!
Finally, join MBCA! Working with like-minded people is the key to shaping communities we all want to live in. It’s one of the oldest American principles: United we stand, divided we fall!
For more tips and resources on how to organize and advocate, see our Take Action section.
DEVELOPMENT IN YOUR COMMUNITY:
For specific development issues, links, contacts, and guides for your area: