Smisek: Another Point of View on The Sil-Mod Plan

Recently you published an article from the Foothill Sentry written by Steve Duff. Every story has two sides, so as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now for the rest of the story”

The Sil-Mod Plan is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted document in the canyons. In a recent ICL meeting, local environmentalists and ICL members were shocked and dismayed that the Sil-Mod PLAN is not a mandated regulatory document, as they had been lead to believe. The Sil-Mod Plan was never intended to be code-enforced, or to restrict development. It was designed only to provide community input, to be considered, in the approval process of local development. Moses did not come down from Saddleback Mountain with two stone tablets, one inscribed “SIL” and the other “MOD” and declared it to be the law of the land.

To understand Sil-Mod you have to go back to its’ origins.  In1974 a developer had plans to build a massive, 350 “cracker box”, home tract on the Holtz Ranch property. Learning of this, the community contacted Orange County officials to object. Such a development would overwhelm our small community and adversely affect our rural lifestyle. We were informed that we could not stop development, but if our canyons had a community plan, it would be considered in the County’s approval process.

Sixteen members formed a committee, which included Residents, Developers, Land Owners, Real Estate Representatives and Business Interests, along with ICL members. We hired a consultant, J L Webb Planning, and conducted a series of meetings. The result was a 112-page document, titled the FOOTHILL CORRIDOR POLICY PLAN. It was produced in October 1974, and accepted by the OC Board of Supervisors. The sole purpose of this Plan was to mitigate massive residential tract development by providing community input on rural aspects to be considered. It was never about “open space” or restricting individual property owners’ rights.

In 1977 the FOOTHILL CORRIDOR POLICY PLAN was condensed to an eleven-page document. The OC Board Of Supervisors adapted this abbreviated version, called the SIL-MOD PLAN, on August 31, 1977. SIL-MOD It retained the original intent of the FOOTHILL policy.  It was, and is a list of guidelines for new development, to be considered in the effort to retain the rural character of our canyons.

The language and content of the SIL-MOD PLAN was derived from the original FOOTHILL plan which was written by Larry Webb, with input from the original 1974 committee. I was part of that group and remain the only member of that committee still residing in Silverado. The name, Tom Smisek, appears on page one of the report, which is on file with the County.

It should be noted that Mr. Duff represents the Inter Canyon League, a non-elected, organization restricted to resident membership only. Of the 2,000 residents in the 92676 (canyons) area code, there are only about 20 are members that regularly attend meetings. Of that, 4 or 5 have chosen to volunteer to be on the Sil-Mod Committee and thus speak for the community. While resident homeowners, renters and borders can vote, local business owners, property owners, absentee homeowners and other community interests have no voice in the ICL. So the Inter Canyon League does not represent our community. Rallying under the mantra of “Save the Sil-Mod Plan”, a small group of environmentalists and NIMBY’s have inaccurately portrayed that Sil-Mod is about to be lost. It is not. There is no effort to discard it.

While the SIL-MOD PLAN is not perfect, as it leaves much to interpretation, has inaccuracies and contradictions, it has served the canyons well, and continues to do so. Since its’ inception in 1974, there have been no mass developments in the canyons. Even though the SIL-MOD PLAN has been touted in several lawsuits, brought by environmental groups, the courts have found no violations. Zoning and County Building Codes provide adequate protection against mass canyon development. No one wants mass development in our canyons. But neither do we want a self-appointed committee of environmentalists, with no qualifications in engineering, land use, or construction, attempting to impose and enforce their subjective version of SIL-MOD on to our community. SIL-MOD PLAN is fine the way it stands.

Tom Smisek, Silverado Resident since 1970

Foothills Sentry: Open letter to Supervisor Spitzer, Save Our Specific Plans

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org