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The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved changes to the county Zoning Ordinance Tuesday to clarify where emergency shelters for the homeless are allowed in unincorporated areas.

The changes will not affect The Gathering Inn, a faith-based organization that operates a nomadic homeless shelter in local churches.

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Under the new rules, host churches will not be subject to discretionary land-use review by the county. With the Zoning Ordinance changes, church-based emergency shelters that provide humanitarian assistance are now a permitted accessory use not subject to discretionary review when operated on the church sites.

The new rules implement provisions of a new state law that require a local government to identify at least one land-use zone where emergency shelters are permitted uses and thus are not required to obtain conditional use permits or other discretionary permits.

Adopted by the board in 2009, the Housing Element of the Placer County General Plan also calls for adopting zoning rules for emergency shelters and clarifying the rules for two other types of group housing: transitional and supportive.

Several nonprofit groups provide transitional housing where individuals and families can stay for up to two years while receiving support services. Placer County’s Adult System of Care provides various types of supportive housing where residents are eligible to receive onsite and offsite support services. No limit is placed on how long a resident can stay in supportive housing.

The Zoning Ordinance amendment approved by the board Tuesday stipulates that transitional and supportive housing projects are subject to the same zoning restrictions as comparable types of housing in the same zoning districts.

At Tuesday’s meeting, several advocates for the homeless spoke in favor of the plan approved by the board. The plan could help efforts to fill the unmet need for emergency shelters, transitional housing and supportive housing in unincorporated areas by stipulating the zoning rules they must comply with and clarifying that they will not face unnecessary restrictions.        

Under the board-approved plan, emergency shelters will be permitted uses in residential multi-family zoning districts as long as they will house no more than 60 people at a time. Shelters seeking to house more than 60 people will be required to obtain minor-use permits.  Other allowed uses in residential multi-family zones include apartment and condominium complexes.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors also approved two adjustments in fees charged by the county for garbage collection and sewer connections. The board held a public hearing on the increases, which will be effective July 1, 2011, before approving them.

The garbage fee increase is for franchise areas 1 and 4, which encompass all parts of unincorporated Placer County west of Colfax, including the Foresthill and Iowa Hill Divides.

Garbage collection fees are based on three factors:

* Cost-of-living adjustments;
* Cost of disposal; and
* A special fee that funds the county’s solid waste management program.

There were no rate increases in 2010 and the actual increases for 2011 will be between 2 percent and 4 percent, depending upon the level of service.

Placer County has a memorandum of understanding with the South Placer Wastewater Authority to collect regional connection fees from sewer districts that send wastewater to either of the Roseville treatment plants.

The increase that was approved Tuesday applies to Sewer Maintenance District No.2 (Granite Bay), County Service Area No. 28, Zone No.2, A3 (Sunset/Whitney), and County Service Area No. 28, Zone No. 173 (Dry Creek).

The SPWA raised the regional connection fee by 1.8 percent in 2010. However, due to the relatively small increase and the low level of construction activity in these districts, county staff did not seek an increase last year. The difference was absorbed by local sewer districts. The authority notified the county that, effective July 1, 2011, the regional connection fee will be increased by 3 percent.

The Board’s action will result in a $300 increase in the fees charged for new sewer connections, per equivalent dwelling unit (EDU). The total connection fee, including regional fee, local fee and facility fee per EDU, will be $8,281.

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