Supes refer ‘substantial changes’ to Planning Commission

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – The county’s General Plan Update is nearing its final phase and the Board of Supervisors is asking for timely progress as it refers 168 land use changes to the Planning Commission.

A requirement to refer substantial changes to the update back to the commission was discussed at a Dec. 14 update hearing. A different version of the commission approved a draft update in 2012 and supervisors have made changes that are, in some cases, substantial.

FacebookLikeButton.THISONEThere is a legal requirement to refer changes that were not included in the alternatives considered by the 2012 commission back for review.

An example of the type of change that qualifies is the board’s decision to allow second residential units on resource production lands under less restrictive permit conditions.

But supervisors envision the referral to the commission as a procedural formality that does not call for in-depth review. The update is expected to draw litigation; County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck said the commission referral fulfills a process-oriented legal requirement.

“It’s getting rid of that layer that says ‘procedurally, you have a defect’ – and this way, you don’t,” he said.

The land use designation changes that are being sent to the commission encompass 271 parcels with a total land area of 7,805 acres.

County Planner Michael Richardson said planning staff used a “very conservative analysis” in determining which changes are substantial enough to send to the commission.

Supervisors want planning commissioners to understand that the roster of substantial changes has been decided on and does not require a significant level of review. But Planning Director Kevin Hamblin said the work could expand if the volume of public comment is significant.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg noted that landowners have already gone through public processes to gain land use designation changes.

FacebookLikeButton.THISONE“And now we’re going to send it back for one more bite at the apple and it could possibly change again?” he asked. “That is a difficult thing for all the people that are on this list, that have done all of this to get whatever property right that they’ve been searching for.”

Board Chair Estelle Fennell agreed. “I think the idea is that if there is a compelling need to dig deeper, the material is there but our suggestion is that this is just an overall picture,” she said.

The Planning Commission recently held 10 special meetings to review the county’s medical marijuana ordinance.

In considering the commission’s work on the update referrals, Supervisor Virginia Bass noted that special meetings have financial impacts.

“We just got done with all these special meetings and they all cost money, and we talk about how we can’t afford $3,000 to replace something,” she said.

Supervisors set Feb. 1 as the date to complete the update’s consistency phase. That will give the commission two meetings, on Jan. 7 and Jan. 21, to review the substantial changes.

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