Development continues to be a contentious issue in El Dorado County in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento. In the June primary, development interests were able to beat back a ballot initiative that would have reduced housing densities. However, a second candidate critical of the county's growth policies was elected to its Board of Supervisors, and a new ballot initiative to control growth may be headed for the November ballot. Voters turned down Measure A, which would have required public referendums on three major subdivisions and restricted housing densities for all new subdivisions. Opponents of the measure were able to defeat it with 54.4% no votes. But supporters say that they put little money or effort into the Measure A campaign, since they have another ballot initiative they are trying to get on the November ballot. The long-running disputes over development in the county center on its general plan, which was adopted in 1996 after more than six years of debate. The plan calls for a population of 260,000 in 2015, up from the current 120,000, and 347,000 at buildout in the year 2040, according to Conrad Montgomery, the county's planning director. Montgomery said that Measure A attempted to reproduce the low-growth alternative that was considered when the county's general plan was adopted. Opponents of the general plan - which includes such environmental groups as the Sierra Club, the California Native Plant Society, and the El Dorado Taxpayers for Quality Growth - immediately filed suit to stop the plan. But no injunctive relief was granted, and the Board of Supervisors has approved a number of projects under the new plan. That case has moved slowly, and is now scheduled to go to trial in October. Most of the development in the county is proposed on its western flank, which is close to Sacramento. Newer residents tend to favor less growth, while support for development is often found in the inland mountainous regions, hard hit by cutbacks in logging and other extractive industries. "As we have been implementing the general plan, all major projects except one have been litigated by local environmental groups," Montgomery said. The board of Supervisors has approved two major residential developments, Carson Creek, a 2,434-unit development on 710 acres; and Promontory, a 1,387-unit development on 999 acres. Both developments are proposed for the west county area. A third development, Pilot Hill Ranch, has been proposed for the northern end of the county, and would have 983 units on 1,798 acres. Opposition to Pilot Hill Ranch helped Penny Humphreys defeat incumbent Walt Shultz in the June supervisor's race. Shultz, a free marketer, had been elected to the board in 1994, when he defeated an advocate of managed growth. Humphreys, who received 56.7 percent of the vote, opposed the rapid pace of development in the county. Measure A, which failed in the June election, was the second ballot measure in two years that attempted to limit growth. In November 1996, Measure K, was narrowly defeated by the county's voters. It would have required developers to have a water supply for their projects, set aside 25% of the county's water for non-residential uses, and prevent approval of tract maps if traffic fell below a specified level of service. Measure K received 51.3% no votes, while measure A failed by a larger margin, with 54.5% no votes. Measure A had originally been readied to be on the same ballot as Measure K in 1996, but the board of supervisors delayed putting it on the ballot, according to Kris Anderson-Moore of Georgetown, a supporter of Measure A. Anderson-Moore explained that the supervisors ordered a 30-day study that effectively kept Measure A off the 1996 ballot. The new ballot initiative, which was recently submitted to the county, is running into similar opposition. The Board of Supervisors defeated four options to place the ballot measure on the November ballot offered by Supervisor Bradley at their June 16 meeting. The new initiative, which supporters call the Control Traffic Congestion initiative, has traffic control features that are similar to Measure K. But the new measure dropped Measure K's water supply elements, Anderson-Moore said. Environmentalism is a loaded word in the county. Anderson-Moore said supporters of the ballot initiatives are "not an environmental movement. It's a movement of good government." Newly elected Supervisor Humphreys will join Supervisor Sam Bradley on the board. Bradley was the lone vote against adoption of the county's general plan. Another newly elected supervisor, Dave Solaro, the police and fire chief of South Lake Tahoe, said he would strike "a balance between the environment and the economy," according to the Sacramento Bee. But campaign finance disclosures showed he had received contributions from those tied to the development community. One environmentalist expressed optimism about the new board. "I think the board will take a broader look at the issues instead of just being a rubber stamp for the developers," said Steve Proe, who lives in Greenwood. Another large proposed master-planned development, Cinnabar, was recently ruled inconsistent with the county's general plan by the Third District Court of Appeal. (See CP&DR, May 1998). Cinnabar, as proposed, would be an equestrian-themed development with 566 houses on very large lots and 2,900 acres of open space. It had been adopted under the general plan that was in effect in 1994. Developers of the project are now considering whether to appeal the matter or redo their EIR, Montgomery said. For years, El Dorado County was among the state's fastest growing counties. But the population apparently slightly decreased between 1996 when it was 121,450 to 119,800 in 1997, Montgomery said. In the last six months, though, it appears that growth has begun again. Montgomery said that the county's population in 1998 is lower by between 10,000 and 20,000 people than was projected under the general plan. This may mean that the population figures projected by the general plan will not be met. Contacts: Conrad Montgomery, El Dorado County Planning Director, (530) 621-5355.