PRESENTATION BY THE RBDA AT WALDORF PLANNING HEARING
(Read on 25 February 2004 before the Santa Cruz County Planning Commission)
Good morning. I’m Don Coyne, speaking for the Rural Bonny Doon Association. As you might know, the Waldorf School falls just within the Bonny Doon Planning Area. Thus the RBDA, with the charge to try to preserve Bonny Doon as a rural and natural environment, takes great interest in possible changes to that environment. The RBDA Executive Board has asked me to present the following statement, which it unanimously endorses.
Bonny Doon has two other educational organizations with a long history of peaceful co-existence with their neighbors: the public elementary school and the Bosch Baha’i enclave. The RBDA recognizes the Waldorf School as a valuable asset to the greater Santa Cruz area community, though their most obvious interaction with the populace of Bonny Doon may be on the highway! There is, however, a distinct difference in the manner in which the RBDA perceives Waldorf compared to, say, their closest analog—Bosch Baha’i. The Waldorf large expansion plan, and the ensuing conflict with their neighbors over this, is largely unprecedented in Bonny Doon—except in cases where industrial expansion has led to similar acrimony. We applaud the recent convergence to agreement between Waldorf and their neighbors, and largely support the plan they have jointly offered. The RBDA, however, has an agenda distinct from that of the neighbors and wants to impress upon Planning and our County Supervisors that attention must be paid, now and in future years, to some aspects which might easily be overlooked.
1. Foremost, the RBDA deplores the creeping loss of rural environment by the granting, through Planning, of multiple approvals, which integrate to a real change in complexion of the area. The Waldorf School stemmed from a pre-existing approval for a Montessori school for only a few dozen children, and with repeated violations of the permits, grew to its projected size of 245. This technique is employed by well-known industries in or near Bonny Doon to circumvent the original intent of permits over a period of time. That’s bad enough, but for a school teaching environmental responsibility, it is highly hypocritical.
2. What makes this current plan reasonably palatable to the RBDA is that the Waldorf administration promises, within the terms of the agreement with the neighbors, that this is the last such expansion; a high school would be located elsewhere, and a green boundary kept around their present lands. Unfortunately, in multiple meetings with the RBDA in the past decade, previous Waldorf administrations have said the same thing: that previous expansions beyond permit were temporary or, with a new permit, no further expansions would occur. This is all carefully documented in the RBDA minutes of those meetings. While we DO believe the intent of this Waldorf administration, this past experience has made us wary. The present plans must be codified in a manner assuring that a future change of heart of some Waldorf administration down the road will not be considered grounds for a new permit for expansion.
3. We applaud the careful determination of mitigations to the problems uncovered by the neighbors, the RBDA , the County Supervisors and even Waldorf itself. The plans for monitoring these mitigations, to verify they are working, also look reasonable, if a bit thin. Unofficial monitoring by the neighbors will be useful. The RBDA feels that the mitigations should be done first, with highest priority to those which would be needed just to resolve present problems (such as traffic) and those sensible for even a student population of only 160. We were gratified to see that this stipulation appears in Appendix C of the Planning Commission report, as it recently was posted on the Web. Now we ask that the work be carefully monitored and this restriction strictly enforced. If the County lets the School admit more students, build the new buildings, and then claim Waldorf is too empty-pocketed to afford the mitigations, then the County will have failed both the RBDA and the County-wide citizenry that implemented measure J.
4. Finally, we note that the Waldorf-Neighborhood agreement allows Waldorf to grow in synchronism with the neighborhood and traffic loads. Again, the RBDA is glad that neighbors have worked out a settlement among themselves. But we hope that those provisions never have to be applied, because they would not be in the best interests of keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural. You can be sure that the RBDA would actively resist both forms of growth. We would like to ask the Supervisors and County Planning that while the permit may refer to the Waldorf-Neighborhood agreement, that it NOT include this built-in expansion permission as part of that permit.
While I’ve dealt largely on our negative reactions to the Plan as stated, please note that with sensible codification and enforcement of mitigations by the County, our view would permit Waldorf to flourish as a valued neighbor in Bonny Doon, and to achieve the sort of harmony with our community that we know, by experience, such institutions can have.
Thanks for your attention to these views.
September 23, 2004
Mardi Wormhoudt, Third District Supervisor
Dear Supervisor Wormhoudt and Mr. Schiffrin,
This letter is a follow-up from our September 8th RBDA meeting. You may recall that we agreed to formulate questions to you and your staff for clarification regarding the landfill site proposal process. The RBDA has received input from the community in regards to questions and concerns both about the process and issues of timely notification to the Bonny Doon community. Our objective is to help bridge the gap of understanding between the Bonny Doon community and your office, and to clarify some key issues regarding the assignment of the CAG and Task Force.
Enclosed is a list of initial questions that we believe reflect the content and feelings of the Bonny Doon community. We ask you to provide answers to these questions which we can then pass on. We hope that this exchange of questions and answers will provide helpful information to all and be a way to repair the trust between members of the Bonny Doon community and our its elected officials.
We have set up a special page on the RBDA website to post the questions and your answers at: www.bonnydoon.got.net/dump.html. We invite you to visit and acquaint yourself with that page, which will be linked to the front page of the website.
Thanks very much for your efforts in these matters.
November 6, 2004
Long Range Developemnt Plan Committee
Dear LRDP Committee Members,
After reviewing your draft Long Range Development Plan and having representatives at both your public hearing on October 20th and the campus meeting on November 4th, we submit the following comment regarding possible plans to expand the student population to 21,000, double the square footage of your buildings and construct new roads.
This proposed growth for the UCSC campus contains enormous ramifications for the Santa Cruz and Bonny Doon communities and the environment. We appeal to you to reconsider this expansion and leave the Cowell lands to the north of the present campus untouched.
As stated by your consultants, the proposed expansion of the northern end of the campus appears to conflict with your stated objective to maintain the natural beauty and uniquely different elements of the Santa Cruz campus. It conflicts with the County’s General Plan, which creates strict boundaries for urban development.
It also conflicts with our mission to maintain Bonny Doon’s natural and rural setting. We are saddened to learn that more of the splendor of this mountain is threatened. The development of the upper forests and meadows of the former Cowell estate will be a huge loss to all.
One direct impact for Bonny Doon is the proposed road that would link Empire Grade, through Cave Gulch, to a newly developed northern loop. Empire Grade is a steep and winding mountain road that is already overburdened by truck traffic from the Felton Quarry. It serves as the major of only three arteries connecting the 4000 or so residents of Bonny Doon to Santa Cruz. This new campus access road would drastically increase use of this steep stretch of two-lane road, with its long history of landslides and accidents, by heavy equipment, trucks, and ancillary traffic, intensifying an existing safety hazard and thereby imposing a major negative impact on its adjacent Cave Gulch neighborhood and the larger Bonny Doon community beyond.
We also remain very concerned about possible impacts to the water table from northern expansion, which may adversely impact the Bonny Doon community.
We know that we are only one voice among many urging the University to reconsider this entire plan, but our agenda for land preservation is one that predates the presence of the University here, and has shaped the General Plan for all of Santa Cruz County and even some of the attitudes of your faculty, many of whom live within our boundaries.
Whatever course is taken, the RBDA intends to take an active part in the examination of future plans. To this end, we strongly recommend that the comment period for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be extended from sixty to at least ninety days.
We are grateful to you for this opportunity to express our concerns,
and hope that you will treat them very seriously. Please keep us informed
as this planning process continues so that we may consider its impact on
Bonny Doon, and keep our membership and community informed.
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