Westhaveners protest ‘village center’ rezoning

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

WESTHAVEN – Residents in Westhaven are protesting a county proposal to rezone the heart of the community as a “village center.”

About 150 people packed into Azalea Hall June 9 for a workshop on the proposed General Plan Update Land Use Designation Mapping. Many were there because of concerns about changing downtown Westhaven’s zoning from its current designation of “rural village” to “village center.”

The change could open up Westhaven to much more intense land uses, including hotels, apartment buildings and large retail establishments.

“It’s really a mixed use designation that is broad and expansive,” said Senior Planner Michael Richardson of the Humboldt County Planning Department.

The existing zoning – rural village – allows for single-family residential homes and small “mom & pop” sized retail establishments, which are required to obtain conditional use permits.

Opponents of the rezoning say they don’t want the change and would prefer for Westhaven to stay the way it is, which is residential.

“It would radically change the density and allowable land uses in our neighborhood. We enjoy our open space and uncluttered neighborhoods,” stated Jennifer Knight in a letter sent to Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg. “Our community does not have the infrastructure – that is, the sewers, water supplies and roads – that would support the high intensity land uses which are needed for a ‘Village Center.’”

Richardson said that one of the problems is maintaining consistency in the new draft general plan, which no longer includes the “rural village” land use designation. In order to keep the current designation, the Board of Supervisors would have to make some sort of exception, allowing Westhaven to be the only place in the county with the “rural village” designation.
Or, if the board wants to maintain the framework of the draft plan, it would rezone Westhaven to “residential estates.” This would allow Westhaven to remain residential, as it is now.

However, if property owners wanted to open a retail establishment, like a store, they would then have to obtain a general plan amendment and a conditional use permit, according to Richardson.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a workshop on the proposed countywide map changes on Monday, June 22 at the Board of Supervisors’ Chamber, 825 Fifth St., Eureka. The meeting is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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