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SD County Rescinds Vote On Red Tape Reduction Recommendations

Aired 2/8/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego County Supervisors decided to backtrack on a vote they took that was designed to speed up the process of issuing development permits. They were facing a possible lawsuit for violating the state’s open meeting laws.

The County Board of Supervisors agreed to nullify a vote they took back in December on recommendations from their Red Tape Reduction Task Force. The changes would have encouraged county staff to act faster on applications for permits for new development.

Local planning groups, who oppose some of the changes, did not attend the December meeting because they thought it would be a discussion with no action taken. That’s what the County CAO recommended.

County Counsel Thomas Montgomery said the board chose to go ahead and vote on some changes rather than wait.

“The public should not be relying on what the chief administrative officer is recommending in deciding if they are going to come down and participate,” he said.

Terry Francke of CalAware is a government transparency watchdog. He said the county violated the state’s open meeting laws by voting before giving the public the chance to weigh in.

“There’s no excuse for playing it coy with the public, which is what happened here. “ he said.

Francke said he has sent a letter to the county agreeing not to sue this time.

“Their refusal to acknowledge that this was a violation of the Brown Act leaves the door open for them to do something like that again. If they do, we will pursue it to judgment. “

Ironically, the County is considering limiting the power of local planning groups, arguing the local planning groups are a legal liability, because they could violate the Brown Act.

The County is scheduled to consider the Red Tape Reduction Task Force recommendations again on February 29th. However a further meeting in March or April may be scheduled for a vote, since Supervisor Ron Roberts will be absent on 29th

An earlier version of this story indicated the issue would be postponed from February till March, but the office of board chair Ron Roberts clarified that the hearing will go ahead on Feb 29th as noticed.

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