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SST LTROctober 21, 2019 - As a resident of Catheys Valley, I am concerned about proposed changes to the Catheys Valley Community Plan that were brought the Catheys Valley Community Planning Advisory Committee for the first time at their August 29 meeting as an action item. The CVCP was adopted in 2012 after a tremendous amount of community input over a 15 year period and may now be changed quickly, without a thoughtful process, due to the requests of a few people. 

Of course, the plan is and should be a living document, meaning changes can and should be made to it. But I was surprised to see a major change in the map boundary and language changes were brought to the Catheys Valley Advisory Committee with only the explanation that some ranchers requested it and without any explanation of who exactly is requesting the changes, why, and what the results would be.

Rather than rushing to get the Advisory Committee to provide direction at their next meeting on Thursday, October 24, at 6:00 P.M. at McCay Hall, I would suggest that the County take a step back and put into place broad-based planning processes to look at the CVCP and gather input for suggested changes. New Catheys Valley residents should be educated and old community members should be reminded of the history, reasoning, and wording of the current plan and have the opportunity to weigh in on what we want for the future of our community. Not just out of respect for all of the community members who spent so much time and effort creating the CVCP and getting it approved in 2012, but because it’s the right thing to do, recommending major changes to the plan shouldn’t be a two meeting process. Reviewing, suggesting changes, and making recommendations should be completed through a professional, deliberative, and thoughtful process that honors everyone, not a rushed push that may benefit only a few.

I checked with people who had been involved in the beginning of Mariposa County General Plan process and the CVCP process. The Catheys Valley Plan boundary was set and plan was made not in a vacuum, but keeping in mind historical uses in the area, what our community wanted, and also historical uses and future plans for other distinct areas in the county.

For instance, Coulterville was designated higher intense residential (to support water system) tourism, and timber; Don Pedro was to be higher intense residential (needed to support water and sewer district), commercial, and recreational; Midpines was interested in being residential, tourism, and housing for Yosemite National Park employees; Yosemite West was designated tourism, outdoor sales, and hotel and restaurant uses for transient tourism; Bootjack was designated industrial, residential, and commercial; Ponderosa Basin, rural residential and transient rentals. As the county seat and given the close proximity to services, Mariposa was designated for affordable housing, intense residential, and commercial.

No other community had agriculture in its plan. The Catheys Valley community went with what had worked for many generations and what the land resources could support which was rural residential, home based businesses, neighborhood commercial, and agriculture allowed on all parcels. I am told all parcels were grandfathered at what were current land uses, protecting property rights and existing uses.

Catheys Valley is on one of the two major highways in and out of the County. Everyone has a stake in what happens in Catheys Valley. As designated in our community plan, the open space and agriculture along Highway 140 and the resulting dark skies benefit Mariposa County as a whole. Tourists and residents alike enjoy driving through our open landscapes with their beautiful views. The result is that these tourists use this route to Yosemite over others, making stops and spending their money along the way.

Having plans that define what communities are and want to be is important so that people purchasing land can protect their investments. This way, everyone goes in with their eyes wide-open and communities do not constantly change directions. Without such planning, the County is chasing its tail trying to meet service demands and funding, at greater cost, and there are no quality assurances for residents.

Transparency is critical. I thank the Catheys Valley Advisory Committee for deciding not to vote on the options brought to them at the last meeting, but deciding rather to reach out to the community to gather input. Given that more information has not been provided regarding who, why, and what the results will be, guessing that development is driving the requests for change in the CVCP is not far-fetched. If this is the case, considerations need to be examined regarding the impacts to roads, increased trash, sewage systems, sheriff's protection, and the increased taxes needed to upkeep those things that are public.

Additional considerations to examine when talking about changes to our community include: the number of existing unbuilt lots we already have in the CVCP planning area; firefighting capability to keep any new commercial and residential development safe; water availability and quality; and impacts on agricultural operations.

For all of these reasons and more, we should be taking a thoughtful, measured approach to any changes to the Catheys Valley Community Plan. To help start this process, I would encourage you to send your opinions to planningdept@mariposacounty.org. They will make sure your comments are included in the meeting packets that go to all Catheys Valley Community Planning Advisory Committee members a few days prior to their next meeting. Committee members are: Ken Davis, Josh Evans, Debbie Lester, Cathie Pierce, Charli McCord, Ken Trujillo, Ken Wagner, and Brian Peters (as listed in the document linked under "Membership" on this page: http://bit.ly/CVCommittee.)

I would also encourage you to come to the next Catheys Valley Community Planning Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, October 24, at 6:00 P.M. at McCay Hall (located at 2820 Hwy.140 in Catheys Valley), hear what is said, and participate in the conversation.

Jill Harry
Catheys Valley, CA