Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Sometime this summer, McKinleyville will begin planning the future of its Town Center.
Although no specific date has been picked, Senior Planner Michael Richardson of the Humboldt County Planning Department assured members of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC) at a meeting March 13 that the Town Center planning would begin in the coming months.
As for the process for creating a town center ordinance, Richardson told the committee “our vision is to actually lean on you guys.”
The Town Center
The McKinleyville Community Plan, approved in 2002, designates the Town Center as an area stretching from Pierson Park to McKinleyville Avenue, and from Railroad Drive to an area just south of Hiller Road. It also includes the commercial area north of Heartwood Drive where the Burger King and other businesses are located.
While much of the area is already developed, there are large stretches of undeveloped property behind the McKinleyville Shopping and on the south side of Hiller Road.
The McKinleyville Community Plan calls for the area to have housing, shops, parks, civic buildings and other facilities connected with pedestrian-friendly pathways. The idea behind the center was to give McKinleyville a focal point and place to gather in a village-like atmosphere.
Even though the plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors 17 years ago, an ordinance specifying development rules for the Town Center was never created.
So that’s the document that the McKMAC will develop this summer with the assistance of staff from the Humboldt County Planning Department.
After the McKMAC helps create an ordinance, the matter would then go to the Humboldt County Planning Commission and ultimately the Board of Supervisors for approval,
Once the ordinance is in place, it would apply to new development in the town center area.
At the March 13 McKMAC meeting, McKMAC member Mary Burke suggested that the committee hold some workshops on the McKinleyville Community Plan, which is the town’s growth blue print.
“We could talk in small groups and have really rich discussions,” Burke said. “We could make sure that what’s in the community plan is really communicating what the community feels now.”
“I’m not necessarily saying that we have to open this up and revise it, but we should certainly make sure that when we get into looking at the town center and the rest of the community, that we’re taking into account the current economic setting,” Burke said.
She said there should be “robust public engagement.”
The discussion on the Town Center was an aside to the meeting’s main purpose, spelled out on the meeting agenda with the mind-numbing description “Zoning Text Amendments and Zone Reclassifications to Implement the General Plan.” (The county General Plan and the McKinleyville Community Plan are two separate documents.)
The Board of Supervisors adopted an updated General Plan for the county in October 2017. County staff is now updating its zoning descriptions and zoning maps to reflect the new General Plan.
The Humboldt County Planning Commission is scheduled Thursday, March 21, to consider the text amendments, which may be considered by the Board of Supervisors sometime in April. After this process is complete, the county will then tackle zoning maps, with the McKMAC having an opportunity to give input.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone informed the committee that it is his understanding that the Board of Supervisors will not be changing the zoning for the Town Center until after that planning process is over.
‘Rules of the road’
Despite the unsexy nature of zoning discussions, there were nearly 50 people in attendance at the McKMAC’s meeting to listen to the presentation and give input.
Senior Planner John Miller offered an analogy to explain the zoning.
“So the general plan is like the constitution. The zoning is like the laws that implement the constitution,” Miller said. “The zoning is the rules of the road.”
Among the changes being made is the creation of a new zone called Timberland Exclusive. This would be for timberland that is not zone TPZ or Agriculture Exclusive.
As proposed, the Timberland Exclusive would have a 60-acre minimum parcel size, with one main house and a secondary dwelling allowed.
A woman who spoke at the McKMAC meeting questioned the wisdom of allowing all these houses in timber areas, and also expressed concern about wildfire.
More information about the zing changes can be found at humboldtgov.org/2429/Implementation.