Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – In many ways, the unincorporated community of McKinleyville is like a city, It has nearly 17,000 residents, thousands of homes and a bustling downtown business district. The town’s main thoroughfare, Central Avenue, is the busiest roadway in unincorporated Humboldt County. It has an airport and a business park.
McKinleyville has almost everything a city does but an actual city government.
Although debated for decades, cityhood has elluded McKinleyville, a situation that many blame on a state law that prevents new cities from taking tax revenues away from counties when they incorporate, unless counties agree to fork over revenues.
The conventional wisdom over the years in McKinleyville is that the so-called “revenue neutrality” provision in state law would be a deal breaker and would make cityhood financially unfeasible. But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong?
Start with the numbers
Newly elected Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone, who represents McKinleyville, was scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 5, after the Union went to press, to ask his fellow board members to approve a request to have county departments track all revenues and expenses in McKinleyville.
At the Jan. 30 meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC), Madrone explained that after a year passes, the community would have solid figures to use in deciding whether to pursue incorporation.
Madrone has said that if the numbers show that McKinleyville is paying more than its fair share into county coffers, it could use that information to demand more services. If the numbers show the opposite, then perhaps the county would be motivated to shed McKinleyville and have it be a city.
Madrone has also said that residents might be willing to pay more taxes if they can see a benefit from doing so.
A key question is what services does the town consider inadequate, and how much are residents willing to pay to improve them?
The McKinleyville Community Services District provides some of the services typically provided by a city government, including sewer, water, streetlights, open space maintenance, and parks and recreation. It also owns the buildings that house the town’s library and law enforcement office.
The three main services provided by the county for McKinleyville that a city would normally handle are police, planning and road maintenance.
Enter the McKMAC
While the debate over cityhood goes on year after year, McKinleyville residents are pursuing a different vehicle to deal with current town issues and to help shape McKinleyville’s future – the McKMAC.
Although the McKMAC is only an advisory committee, it has asserted itself and has become a powerful voice for the community.
County department heads now routinely seek the committee’s advice on roadway projects and some big-picture planning issues. (The McKMAC’s charter doesn’t allow it to comment on individual projects and permits.)
More than 35 people showed up at the Jan. 30 meeting, a large turnout by Mack Town standards. The crowd was enthusiastic and participated in discussions on a wide-range of issues.
Change of leadership
One of the first issues that committee had to deal with Jan. 30 was the resignation of committee chair John Corbett, who is also a member of the MCSD Board of Directors.
Corbett was named chair of the MCSD board on Jan. 2 after MCSD board member George Wheeler resigned for health reasons.
Corbett said he didn’t think it would be appropriate to serve as both the chair of the MCSD and the McKMAC.
The committee voted unanimously, with Stephanie Weldon absent, to appoint Kevin Dreyer as the new McKMAC chair and Kevin Jenkins as the vice chair.
The committee also voted to continue to have Barbara Georgianna serve as secretary.
John Ford, the director of Humboldt County Planning and Building, was in attendance at the meeting to give a presentation and receive input from the committee on land rezonings in the McKinleyville area.
However, the agenda for the meeting simply said “General Plan Amendments – Humboldt County Planning Department.”
Corbett advised the committee that the agenda was improperly worded and discussing the issue could be seen as a Brown Act violation.
Instead, the McKMAC will hear a presentation on the rezoning at a special meeting on Wednesday, March 13 at 6 p.m. at Azalea Hall, 1620 Pickett Rd. in McKinleyville.
The County of Humboldt is in the process of updating its Housing Element, a document that the state requires.
According to the county’s website, “The Housing Element identifies existing and projected housing needs and establishes goals, policies, standards and implementation measures for the preservation, improvement, and development of housing in the unincorporated areas of the county.”
The state is requiring that the county update the Housing Element by Aug. 15.
The McKMAC will hear a presentation and may comment on the document at its meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at Azalea Hall, 1620 Pickett Rd., McKinleyville.
More information on the Housing Element can be found at humboldtgov.org/2448/2019-Housing-Element.