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-For Immediate Release-
Supervisors Make Substantial Changes to GPU Guiding Principles
Despite Pleas for Robust Public Review Process
June 3, 2013
Eureka, CA – On Monday, June 3, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors did an about face on the Guiding Principles of the County’s General Plan Update. Despite requests from many speakers, including Hezekiah Allen of the Mattole Restoration Council and local resident Lisa Zystro, for more time to review a new set of principles that were released just three days before the hearing, the Board voted 4-1 to substantially alter the original Guiding Principles. The original principles were developed with significant public input over several years and unanimously approved by both the Board of Supervisors in 2004 and then by the Planning Commission, with a few minor changes, in 2012.
Supervisor Fennell, after emphasizing the importance of public participation, decided against giving another two weeks for the public to review and comment on the major changes to the Guiding Principles. Supervisor Bohn made a claim that he felt the new Principles, which were developed behind closed doors, were representative of the community as a whole despite significant concerns brought up by many members of the public in attendance. Supervisors Bass and Sundberg were quick to support the new language leaving Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace to be the lone dissenting voice.
In response to the outcome of Monday’s hearing, NorthcoastEnvironmentalCenter director Dan Ehresman stated, “The Board’s decision to approve a brand new set of Guiding Principles absent even a week for public review greatly undermines the very idea of robust public participation that this Board supposedly supports.”
Speaking specifically about the newly adopted principles Ehresman continued, “What concerns me most is not necessarily what these new principles say, it is what they leave out. Specifically, the Board decided to take out all reference to protecting forests and farmland from further subdivision – which was an underlying concept that has community support. Moreover, the Board voted to remove a key principle that spoke to the importance of including actionable plans for funding critical infrastructure needs. Given vastly outdated water and sewer lines and a $200 million backlog in costs needed to repair failing roads, one would hope that our government representatives might want to take this issue at least a little seriously.”
The new version also eliminates support of the County’s economic development strategy and prioritizes landowners’ rights over the rights of those who do not own property and over environmental protections in general.
Ehresman concluded, “Overall, we fear that the Board’s decision marks a very clear turning point away from a meaningful public process that seeks to balance the interests of our broad community in favor of one that serves the self-interest of some developers, Realtors, and large property owners.
About the Northcoast Environmental Center
The mission of the Northcoast Environmental Center is to promote understanding of the relations between people and the biosphere and to conserve, protect, and celebrate terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems of northern California and southern Oregon.
For more information, please contact:
Northcoast Environmental Center
PO Box 4259
Addendum: Ryan Burns’s coverage.
Very good Ryan Burns article, and, yes, I’m quoted extensively in it.
He replaces Clif-appointed Mel Kreb.
Mr. Morris, a professional forester, is known for his lawsuit against the federal government alleging that certain portions of the Endangered Species Act amount to a property “taking.”
He is also the agent for process for HumCPR, and serves as the organization’s treasurer.
He has recently served on the Grand Jury.
I’ll post more information as I get it.
One point about legalization is that it will bring the industry into the realm of all other business, and you’ll be able to sue a neighbor just as if he or she was running a pig farm in a residential neighborhood. Expect more lawsuits like this one, even if the special nuisance statute no longer applies.
The Ridgewood development proposal is in the news as one woman does not want to give up a private road which will provide one of four necessary accesses to the subdivision. Some in the comments section are asking whether the condemnation for the benefit of a private developer is allowed by the 5th Amendment, and for better or worse, the US Supreme Court has answered “yea.”
Kelo vs. the City of New London basically defines “public benefit” broadly, as incorporated that which is deemed by the applicable government body to be of economic benefit to the entire community – whether the public in general will actually use the property. Therefor, yes, a local government may force a purchase of the property under rules of eminent domain – for a private developer. It’s been done for decades to create malls and such. It’s pretty much local government’s call, with very little court scrutiny.
The latest newsletter can be found inside last week’s North Coast Journal, and for me the most interesting portion was the one dedicated to four questions asked of each of the candidates. I can’t find it online at either the NCJ or HumCPR sites.
I’m going to summarize the responses pretty much ignoring the commentary candidates gave which is not directly related to the question. You should read them on your own however, as some of what they say is tangentially related, sometimes provided when the candidate didn’t feel it was a question appropriate for the position for which he or she is running. I sometimes receive some complaints about my interpretations of campaign statements, occasionally even from candidates I support. I could say that sometimes the “confusion” is the product of the difficulty of interpreting either inadvertently or deliberately vague or evasive responses, but I’ll leave that up to you. This is just a primer for those of you who may not access the newsletter any time soon.
I think the wording of a couple of the questions are problematic as well, as noted. A few of the candidates respond to a question by challenging a premise behind it, and I note that in my summary. If I can’t tell what the candidate position is on the question, I note that as well.
Fourth District Supervisor:
Do you believe the County should uphold the people’s principally permitted right to build a home with a home with a ministerial permit on their legal existing parcel? (this question assumes that the right is always principally permitted as oppose to conditionally permitted regardless of zoning or other legal status of the land, or at least it fails to distinguish).
Virginia Bass – Yes, as long as the right is recognized by state and county law.
Jeff Leonard – I think maybe the answer is a yes, but basically he defines “ministerial permit” and says that the definition has been changed for the Marina Center project and objects to that process.
Bonnie Neely – Points out that it is not a principally permitted right with every parcel under existing law and says that discretionary permits are applicable when there is an issue of compatibility with surrounding land uses. Believes that the Board needs to review ag zone and TPZ policy and establish a set of checks and balances, but not require conditional use permits for the majority situations in which owners don’t intend to receive tax breaks for ag or TPZ status.
Should the County have the right to unilaterally merge existing parcels that were legally created just because a single owner now owns them?
Virginia Bass – No
Jeff Leonard – No
Bonnie Neely – The county does not have that right. The existing law provides for due process. Using the merger ordinance to prevent fragmentation of timber and agricultural lands may not be a good idea. She wants to hear alternatives.
Do you believe that the public has been adequately informed and given sufficient opportunities for meaningful input in the General Plan Update process?
Virginia Bass – Acknowledges that the County has spend a great deal of time over the years on the issue, but does not believe that the information provided has been adequate or timely.
Jeff Leonard – Says that the county has taken ample public input on the GPU, but needs to speed up the process.
Bonnie Neely – Yes
Do you believe that the County is effectively administering the current General Plan?
Virginia Bass – Responds in the negative and then refers to a lack of clarity which applies to policy regarding the current plan as well as the update.
Jeff Leonard – Doesn’t really answer. He says he’s done a good job with Eureka’s General Plan and says that complaints about the County process should be directed to Bonnie Neely.
Bonnie Neely – yes, especially considering the funding limitations.
The responses from the other races are summarized below the fold.
This article, “When the Land’s Worth more than the Trees,” expounds on an issue dear to home and relevant to the GPU debate. From the article:
With timber prices flatlining and real estate values rising, many private forestland owners are shifting their gaze to building homes rather than growing trees. Landowners elsewhere in the country, under pressure to maximize returns, have looked to convert forests into subdivisions and resorts as trees become less valuable than the land they occupy.
The unprecedented change in land ownership raises concerns about the impact on wildlife and natural resources, as well as the increased costs of protecting residents from forest fires. Nationwide, about 1 million acres of forestland are lost to development every year. In the Pacific Northwest, it begs the question: What does the future for forestry look like in a region defined by it?
Much more through the link. Thanks to Healthy Humboldt for bring my attention to it.
Just read Daniel Mintz’ story in the Independent. The “target date” is December 17. This is good. While my views of the GPU are definitely in a minority around here it is important that people who are likely to be the most affected by new zoning be given reasonable opportunity to provide on-record input. Hats off to HumCPR and CLMP for pushing the issue.
It will be “strictly for public input,” but I hope there’s more of an exchange than the June meeting at CR when the commissioners pretty much sat passively and smiling while directing any questions to the two planners sitting on the end of the stage. People on all sides were frustrated with the lack of interaction.
For our part, I hope we can present with a minimum of the theatrics which characterize many of our town hall meetings. There was plenty of venting when Clif and the planners came down last spring. It’s time for serious substantive discussion. What zoning changes would you support, if any? Why? How do you believe the various “plans” would impact your property? How many more subdivisions/parcels can the local ecosystems handle? What mitigations would you propose so the county can meet state standards and mandates?
In short – focus.
I just haven’t had the time to follow up on the story, but after a couple of years of doldrums the Marina Center project has heated up in recent weeks. Heraldo has covered it extensively. Last night the Eureka City Council met to discuss approval of the EIR. It looks like Heraldo, Tom Seaborn, and others were there to “live blog” it. I’m trying to picture this meeting with so much clicking of laptop keyboards in the audience.
3-2 vote in the end.
Heraldo reports 2500 to 3500 currently available building sites in rural areas. The Planning Department reports that it believes there’s enough inventory to meet projected demand. I’m not clear on the time frame for the projected demand.