The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors continued a discussion on proposed changes to the Planning Commission approved draft of the General Plan Update guiding principles Monday evening, Sept. 23. About 60 members of the public or representatives of interest groups attended.
The guiding principles are to provide a statement of community values, and of the overall objectives of the General Plan. The planning commission approved draft of the General Plan Update section 1.4 states that “the guiding principles ... are the direct result of the public process involved in developing the General Plan.”
In June of this year second district supervisor Estelle Fennell in collaboration with first district supervisor Rex Bohn sent a set of revised guiding principles to the head of the planning department. There was a public outcry about the changes and the shortness of notice of the change. At the time the board took a straw vote to accept supervisor Fennell's revisions (with supervisor Lovelace dissenting), but agreed to discuss them further and set the Sept. 23 meeting date for that purpose and to allow the public more time to review and comment.
Thirty-eight people spoke during the public comment session of the meeting Monday night, Sept. 23.
Half of the people spoke in favor of keeping the planning commission approved version of the guiding principles.
Of the rest of the speakers, several wrote their own versions of guiding principles that blended both versions. One such version was said by the speaker who offered them, to have been endorsed by 50 people. There were a few people who said that the guiding principles should reference the 1500 section of the (current) Framework General Plan that addresses public participation.
There were about five people who spoke either for various interest groups for property rights or developers or as individual members of those groups who were in favor of the version presented by supervisor Fennell in June. They spoke of economic advantages of streamlined regulation, simplified planning, and in favor of economic growth and development and property rights.
Ten people spoke about the guiding principles or the process of determining them without clear statements of preference for one or the other version.
Speakers expressed a range of experiences about the process for devising the guiding principles. Some thought there was a lot of public input, some said public process was flawed.
After public comment closed the supervisors commented and then set about reviewing the guiding principles.
Supervisor Fennell indicated that she was glad people had gotten involved. She said that the board can't just ignore what has been said since the guiding principles were written. Supervisor Bass pointed out that they had received several different sets of versions and she appreciated the constructive dialogue that had resulted from the proposed changes. Supervisor Lovelace described the issue as a matter of process. The plan shouldn't just be the result of the last man standing, he said, but should incorporate what has been said all along.
Supervisor Bohn said he didn't think the original process had been necessarily all that inclusive.
Supervisor Sundberg said that it was up to the board to decide about the planning commission approved version and with all the constructive suggestions that had come up the guiding principles could be improved.
The supervisors then set about reviewing the guiding principles.
They had time to consider the first five, listed here as follows:
1. Ensure that public policy is reflective of the needs of the citizenry as expressed by the citizens themselves.
2. Preserve and enhance the character of Humboldt County and the quality of life it offers.
3. Provide sufficient developable land, encourage development of affordable housing for all income levels, and prevent housing scarcity under a range of population growth scenarios.
4. Ensure efficient use of water and sewer services and focus development in those areas and discourage low-density residential conversion of resource lands and open space.
5. Support the county's economic development strategy and work to retain and create living wage job opportunities.
The board had time to rewrite the first five with a straw vote approval. Now the guiding principles are:
1. Ensure that public policy is reflective of the needs of the citizenry of a democratic society as expressed by the citizens themselves.
2. Preserve and enhance the diverse character of Humboldt County and the quality of life it offers.
3. Promote and facilitate the creation of affordable housing opportunities to meet current and future demands for all income levels.
4. Cooperate with service providers and promote efficient use of roads, water and sewer services by encouraging development in areas with existing infrastructure and discouraging conversion of resource lands to other uses. Support home construction methods and alternative wastewater systems that are proven to minimize threats to human health and safety with a goal of reducing energy and water usage.
5. Support the county's economic development strategy and other efforts to retain and create living wage job opportunities.
The board's discussion about the remaining guiding principles and the proposed changes will continue on Oct. 7.
Below are the two versions under consideration that may be left as they are, or adopted as revised on June 7 or revised yet again on Oct. 7 and still remain to be discussed:
6. Protect agriculture and timberland over the long term, using measures such as increased restrictions on resource land subdivision and patent parcel development.
7. Protect natural resources, especially open space, water resources, water quality, scenic beauty, and salmonid habitat.
8. Include actionable plans for infrastructure financing and construction.
9. Adhere to a practical strategy that can be implemented.
10. Provide a clear statement of land use values and policies to provide clarity in the county's permit processing system and simplify review of projects that are consistent with the General Plan.
11. Maximize the opportunities to educate the public about the planning process, in order to have meaningful participation in the development and maintenance of the plan.
12. Support a broad public participation program at all levels of the decision making process; including study, workshops, hearings, and plan revisions.
The following revisions of the rest of the guiding principles were approved by straw vote on June 3, 2013 with supervisor Lovelace dissenting.
6. Encourage, incentivize and support agriculture, timber and compatible uses on resource lands.
7. Honor landowners' right to live in urban, suburban, rural or remote areas of the county while using a balanced approach to protect natural resources, especially open space, water resources and water quality in cooperation with state and federal agencies.
8. Adhere to practical strategies that can be implemented utilizing constructive cooperation and common sense.
9. Provide a clear statement of land use values and policies in the county's permit processing system and simplify review of projects.
10. Maximize the opportunities to educate the public about the planning process, in order to have meaningful participation in the development and maintenance of the plan.
11. Support a broad public participation program at all levels of the decision making process including study, workshops, hearings and plan revisions.