Fresno County told to get more public input on growth plans

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County is expected to grow by 300,000 residents in the next 20 years--with a projected population of more than 1.3 million.

The county is in the process of drawing up a new General Plan. It is basically a blueprint for how the county plans to grow. But at Thursday's meeting, the County Supervisors heard the county has not done enough to let the citizens know what is going on.

Mariah Thompson of California Legal Services told the board posting a flyer is not enough.

"A single page notice that is published on a bulletin board and posted in a library is not enough to get an ordinary resident and citizen of Fresno County to come and really read 1,500 page series of documents," said Thompson.

Ashley Werner, an attorney with the Leadership Council for Social Responsibility, told the supervisors that while the county is planning for the future, they have neglected past requirements including dealing with the disadvantaged population.

"The county is well past due in complying with various mandates of state law both regarding programs in its housing element that were due in 2016. Requirements to identify needs in disadvantaged communities as in SB244 and about 10 years over a date in adopting an air quality elements," said Werner.

Board Member Buddy Mendes bristled at any suggestion he was not listening to the disadvantaged of the county.

"That really bothers me is when people say disadvantaged communities are not being heard. I live there. A lot of people who advocate for them don't live there," said Mendes.

But after listening to an hour of complaints from county residents Mendes said the county should quadruple its efforts to advise the public about its general plan meetings. Werner believes the process of getting public input should have started well before anything was drafted.

"What really should happen is the public process should start up front, even before where we are right now, where we've already released a 500-page zoning ordinance-- which had no public review at all. An environmental justice element, air quality policies without taking input from people at all."

As it is public hearings on Fresno County's General Plan are months away. Supporters of open government are hoping the public will be invited to take part and help guide the plans for the county's future.
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