Mt. Hermon Camp and Conference Center Specific Plan – Felton, Santa Cruz County

Issue: A Christian conference center and youth camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains proposed expansion of overnight accommodations and several new facilities within its 85-acre campus. The campus and the surrounding communities depend on groundwater from the same aquifer and the aquifer was experiencing overdraft. In addition, two federally listed endangered species inhabited the site. The existing conference center had been developed in several stages since the early 1900’s and did not conform to any single set of County zoning regulations or site standards.

Solution: Convinced Planning Department management that formulating a Specific Plan for the campus would provide the flexible set of land use regulations that would meet both the needs of the Camp and Conference Center and County regulators. Managed the Environmental Impact Report and was the project planner preparing the Specific Plan for the expansion project. Both the Specific Plan and the EIR addressed a series of complex issues including the proposal to expand visitor-serving accommodations to 886 beds without exacerbating groundwater overdraft and how to avoid impacts to endangered species. The project was approved in 2001. Permit requirements included implementation of the EIR’s recommended alternative water use plan where excess winter stream flows are captured and stored for summer water use instead of increasing groundwater demand.