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Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

The Humboldt County planning commission has informally agreed to incorporate an extensive public participation policy that was championed by many speakers from Southern Humboldt into the county’s General Plan Update.

At the commission’s hearing on the Governance Element of the GPU last Thursday evening, Nov. 17, more than 15 speakers asked the commission to make Section 1500 of the current framework General Plan (completed in 1984) part of the GPU.

Planning staff, after meeting with Dan Taranto of McKinleyville, one of the authors of Section 1500, had presented commissioners and the public with a revised draft of the Governance Element just two days before the hearing.

Because of the short notice and the public’s request for a workshop, commission chair Mary Gearheart agreed to continue discussion of the element to Thursday, Dec. 15, 30 days after the revised element was posted.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on Dec. 15 and will include a workshop with less restriction on speakers’ time. This format will allow for questions and answers among the public, staff, and commission.

After extensive discussion, commissioner Ralph Faust suggested that Taranto and others interested in revision of the element form a working group, similar to the rural lands working group, the healthy watersheds working group, and the telecommunications working group.

This group would get together to prepare their recommended revisions to the proposed element in a format compatible with the rest of the GPU before the Dec. 15 meeting.

The other commissioners agreed that this would be extremely helpful. Although no formal action was taken at last Thursday’s meeting, the informal consensus appears to be support for the proposal.

Commissioners also asked for help from the League of Women Voters, who had presented a strong letter of support for more detailed and specific provisions dealing with public participation.

Some speakers said that the language proposed by staff was not entirely the same as that in Section 1500 and that some provisions had been excluded.

Planning director Kirk Girard went through the six provisions that had been left out, most of them because they were redundant. Gearheart then asked Taranto if he thought any of them should be included.

These provisions had been added by the former planning director after Taranto’s committee completed writing the text. “They always annoyed me,” he said.

Besides public participation, the Governance Element covers how the General Plan will be implemented, how it can be amended or modified, the permit application process; and coordination with other jurisdictions such as the state, cities, and tribes.

None of these issues was discussed at Thursday’s meeting and the commission did not begin deliberations on the provisions of the element, but these subjects will be addressed following the workshop on Dec. 15.

Approximately two dozen people attended the meeting, and about half of them were from Southern Humboldt. Among the 17 speakers, in addition to Taranto, seven were from SoHum, four were from the Humboldt Association of Realtors, two were members of Healthy Humboldt but were speaking for themselves, and two were from the League of Women Voters. Kay Backer spoke on behalf of the Humboldt Economic and Land Planning (HELP) group.

During the time allowed for comment on subjects not on the agenda, Tom Grover presented pictures of the 20,000 cubic yards of debris from the March 30 Highway 101 landslide that were dumped as fill on a property in Phillipsville.

The fill area is 800 feet long, 150 feet wide, and six to eight feet deep, Grover said. He also stated that a stream runs down the hill into this area, creating a wetland in winter, but the “half mountain” of fill is now pushing that water back up the hill toward the homes behind the Riverwood Inn.

People in Phillipsville at first accepted the idea of fill from the landslide because they believed it would make it possible to build much-needed multi-family housing in the area, resident Fern Konieczny said. But as the Caltrans contractor’s trucks arrived with more and more material, they realized this would not be the benefit it had seemed at first.

Girard replied that the site had already been used as a fill site in 2004, which made it legal to continue to use for this property. Because the area is surrounded by prime ag land, the contractor was required to put new material only within the existing footprint.

These conditions led to a “ministerial” permit process, which means that staff can approve the permit without public notification or hearings, provided the applicant meets established requirements. Caltrans had duly received this permit.

After receiving complaints recently, inspectors were sent to the site, and the area was regraded, Girard added.

The planning commission will be hearing only permits this week, but on Thursday, Dec. 8, they will discuss the implementation ordinances for the Housing Element as well as the land use maps.

On the following Thursday, Dec. 15, commissioners will convene an hour early at 5 p.m. to finish up some outstanding issues in the Safety and Noise Elements, followed at 6 p.m. by the Governance Element workshop, deliberations, and recommendations to the board of supervisors.

The commission will not meet during the last two weeks of December.

These hearings will be held in the board of supervisors’ chambers at the county courthouse in Eureka. The public is welcome to attend and time is made available for public comment.

Written comments should be submitted as an original and 14 copies. They may be submitted at the meeting or mailed to Martha Spencer, Humboldt County Planning Division, 3015 H Street, Eureka. For questions, call Spencer at 268-3704 or email her at mspencer@co.humboldt.ca.us.

A copy of the land use map for all of Southern Humboldt can be seen at the Garberville library. The land use map for the Garberville-Redway-Benbow-Alderpoint community planning area can be seen at both the Garberville Sanitary District and Redway Community Services District offices. The Avenue of the Giants land use map from Myers Flat south can be seen at the Deerhorn Market in Phillipsville.

Maps and information are also online at www.planupdate.org.

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