At a hearing Monday, July 10, the Humboldt County board of supervisors officially lengthened the "short list" of items to consider as they review the General Plan Update.
In spite of the objections of some members of the public who wanted to the board to place more items on the short list or to halt the process entirely, the supervisors began their review of items, July 16.
The July 16 hearing, which was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. and continue into the evening hours to give more members of the public a chance to weigh in the on the controversial Governance and Land Use Elements, occurred too late for press time. The Redwood Times will report on this hearing in our next issue.
The supervisors are considering the most current draft of the GPU, the version that was approved by the planning commission last spring after 78 hearings during three years of deliberation.
County planning staff originally presented the board of supervisors with a list of 59 out of 950 provisions to review for final approval. Items on the initial short list were those that received less than a two-thirds majority approval from the commission.
Most of those items involve forest and agriculture resource lands, particularly provisions addressing allowable parcel sizes and residential density. The Circulation Element, which looks at roads and transportation, also has a large number of provisions pulled for the supervisors' review.
At this most recent hearing, as well as two hearings in June, members of the public and representatives of various interest groups suggested additional items.
Interim planning director Martha Spencer reported that the Humboldt Association of Realtors asked for 160 additions to the short list; the Resource Lands Working Group, a coalition of farmers, ranchers, and timber owners, wanted 35 additions; the Public Participation Working group called for 12 additions; and Healthy Humboldt and the League of Women Voters asked for five additions.
Individual members of the public asked for a total of 58 additions.
In addition to the 59 "baseline" recommendations, staff prioritized the requests as moderate and low priority. Moderate priority items were those which earned a clear recommendation from the commission but only after extensive discussion and which received at least two requests for reconsideration. All other requests were classified as "low priority."
Staff then presented the board with a revised shortlist that adds 29 new items for a total of 88.
At the July 16 hearing 16 speakers addressed the board. Several speakers, including SoHum residents Tom Grover and Fern Konieczny, were concerned that much public comment, both written and oral, that was made during the commission's hearings had not been captured and was not available in the public record.
Another concern was that because the commission was often weeks, if not months, late in approving the minutes of their meetings, those minutes were not publicly available.
Regarding the tardy minutes, Spencer pointed out that the commission has been without a dedicated clerk for nearly the entire GPU process, as their clerk was on extended disability leave after a serious accident.
Fourth district supervisor Mark Lovelace said he and the other supervisors had received a disk with 437 written comments, which they are reviewing. Board chair and 3rd district supervisor Virginia Bass assured the speakers that oral comment is extremely important to the board's decision-making process, and that she personally is keeping notes on all the speakers' remarks.
Bonnie Blackberry, representing the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project, said that some of the items submitted by the Public Participation Working Group "slid off the table at the planning commission" and were not discussed.
Second district supervisor-elect Estelle Fennell said she thought "Category 3," those items that staff indicated were of "low priority" when considering additions to the short list, should also be included. She said she saw several that she thought were important in the Rural Lands, Agricultural Resources, and Forest Resources sections.
Additionally, Fennell was concerned that the proposed hearing schedule was too short. Both staff and the supervisors responded that "we are in it for as long as it takes."
Tom Schultz of Humboldt Redwood Company, a member of the Resource Lands Working Group, said not all the comments he and other member of the RLWG made had been adequately addressed by the commission.
"The planning commission worked hard but they didn't always get it right," Schultz said. The RLWG would like an opportunity for further review. In many cases, this might mean changing only a few words of the provision, he said.
Humboldt Farm Bureau executive director Katherine Ziemer agreed with Schultz. She said the RLWG understood from discussions at the planning commission that their issues could be re-introduced to the board of supervisors if they disagreed with the commission's recommendations.
Realtor Tina Christensen, representing the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights, felt that the entire GPU was not ready for the board's consideration because of the "smorgasbord" approach of choosing among alternatives A, B, C, and D.
She said that a provision in the Climate Action Plan, an appendix to the Draft Environmental Impact Report, calling for the county to support family planning programs, was written by a staff member, and was not merely a clerical error. She wondered how many more "controversial, non-mainstream" items had been placed in the plan by staff.
In a brief conversation with the Redwood Times after the meeting, Spencer pointed out that the family planning paragraph had been deleted from the Climate Action Plan almost immediately, as requested by the board. "That's what you do with a draft," Spencer said.
Another speaker declared that "man-made climate change" has been debunked and is "not scientific"; therefore, the entire GPU can be thrown out. "Now we can each decide for ourselves what is sustainable," he said.
Finally, several speakers wanted the board to reconsider the Guiding Principles that appear in the first chapter of the GPU, "to provide a statement of community values and of the overall objections of the General Plan," according to the text.
The Guiding Principles were approved by the supervisors seated on the board in 2004 to direct staff when they wrote the GPU draft and the commissioners when they reviewed it.
All the supervisors, as well as Spencer, reminded the public that the review process is flexible and that other items may be added as the hearings continue.
"The short list is to focus our discussion, not the end of the process," said 5th district supervisor Ryan Sundberg. He said that any member of the public who would like to see further discussion on an item could call or email any of the supervisors.
Nevertheless it seemed clear that the supervisors are not likely to consider every item brought forward. Bass said it would be helpful to the board if requests to review items not already on the short list include an explanation of why the item needs to be reconsidered.
Following discussion, the supervisors made two motions. The first motion called for review of the 88 items on the staff's revised short list and a revision of the demographic data to reflect the 2010 census.
The second motion added a review of the Guiding Principles at both the beginning and the end of the process, two policies from the Governance Element, and one from the Growth Planning section of the Land Use Element, as well as adding a new provision to Governance that would require staff to annually review technological developments to find methods for interactive participation at remote locations.
Both motions passed 4-0, with Supervisor Jimmy Smith absent.
At the board's request, the meeting schedule was altered so that the consideration of the Land Use Element, which includes the definitions, principally permitted uses, parcel sizes, and allowable density in each land use designation, can continue from July 16 to July 23.
If necessary the current schedule, which calls for final approval in September, can be extended.
For effective public comment, board chair Bass recommended that those who plan to make oral comment also submit a written statement since, depending on the number of speakers at each hearing, she may limit oral comment strictly to three minutes per speaker.
The written comments should be emailed to the clerk of the båoard, Kathy Hayes, at email@example.com, or they may be sent by postal mail to Board of Supervisors, Room 111, 825 Fifth Street, Eureka 95501. The clerk will make and distribute copies to the supervisors.
The July 23 hearing will continue discussion of the Land Use Element. If time allows, the board will also hear comment on "Building Communities," which includes the Infrastructure and Services, Telecommunications, Circulation, and Economic Development Elements.
Further hearings are scheduled for August and September.
All hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. at the board of supervisor's chambers at the county courthouse in Eureka.