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Stocker's plan for Yuba open spaces stalls

A bid by Yuba County Board of Supervisors Chairman Hal Stocker to plant the seeds for preserving county open and ag space got a withering response on Tuesday, but the foothills supervisor said he'll try to nurture the idea another way.

On a 3-2 vote, the board rejected Stocker's proposal to put an initiative for open space preservation on the November ballot, with one supervisor saying he had heard nothing but opposition to the issue.

"It's been instant and overwhelming to me," said Supervisor John Nicoletti, adding he saw little reason for a 30-day delay on the matter, as Supervisor Mary Jane Griego suggested. "I think the only difference we'd see a month from now would be more people in opposition."

READ THE REJECTED INITIATIVE.

The initiative, which Stocker drafted in response to phone polls he had done, would've, if approved by voters, prevented supervisors from amending the recently adopted General Plan to allow development on lands designated as natural resources.

Such a description could apply to farmlands in the valley floor, some undeveloped properties in the foothills and land already designated for open space and/or recreation.

The restrictions would apply until the 2030 General Plan was revised, or until another vote of the people reversed them.

But speakers said they couldn't support an idea giving people uninformed on land use the right to essentially veto development elsewhere in the county. "This is playing on peoples' emotions," said Browns Valley resident Buck Weckman. "You're going to get a multitude of people who oppose this."

Weckman and other speakers also questioned the polls Stocker used, though Stocker said sizable majorities in every district supported the concept of preserving open space in those polls.

He compared the proposed initiative to what happened with Yuba Highlands, a proposed housing development approved by supervisors on a 3-2 vote, then rejected by voters in a ballot initiative in 2008.

"To me, what this does is sort of enforce the General Plan," Stocker said before the vote.

Nicoletti and Supervisors Roger Abe and Andy Vasquez voted in favor of rejecting the initiative, while Stocker and Griego voted to move it forward. Griego said she did so because she wasn't getting a 30-day delay to hear from her constituents on the issue.

Such a delay would've put further discussion of the matter after the June 5 primary in which Griego, Nicoletti and Abe are all on the ballot.

But Stocker said Tuesday's vote just meant he would have to begin a process to collect signatures and get it on the ballot that way.

"I've got to iron out the details," he said, such as the deadline to submit signatures and how many he would need.

"I don't think I have any problem collecting the signatures," he said.

CONTACT Ben van der Meer at bvandermeer@appealdemocrat.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.


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