Planning commission seeks guidance; asks Supes for next step in General Plan

The Humboldt County Planning Commission voted to send a letter to the board of supervisors at its Tuesday meeting, asking whether it should continue its review of the General Plan's Conservation and Open Space Elements chapter.

"We respectfully ask the supervisors to review the work completed and to give us further instruction," the letter's ending states.

The decision came during the commission's final special meeting to review the elements. The board had given the commission a 45-day deadline when it voted to send the chapter back to the commission for review during its Jan. 13 General Plan meeting.

Commissioner Noah Levy said it was important for the board to determine what it should do because the commission failed to finish its review on time.

"The planning commission does have another role to play in the process," Levy said. "It would help to have some guidance from our bosses."

Humboldt Baykeeper Policy Director Jennifer Kalt said she was against the commission requesting more time because the commission currently is reviewing a more time sensitive element in the plan.

"I'm really concerned about the Housing Element because it has a deadline," Kalt said. "I think you ought to focus on that because it is very complicated."

After a period of discussion on whether the letter should ask the board for a more specific time frame, the commission voted 4-3 -- with commissioners Bob Morris, David Edmonds and Lee Ulansey dissenting -- to send a more generalized letter.

Commission Chairman Robert Morris argued that the commission was not given the full 45 days to review the elements due to a mandated 10-day notice.

"The supervisors gave this back to us for a reason," Morris said. "If we haven't completed this, then I don't think their reason for giving this back has been completed."

The majority of the meeting was taken up by public comment, which primarily focused on the commission's recommendation to alter the Open Space section's goal of a county-wide trail system.

Local resident Jessica Hall said that while a similar goal is included in the plan's Circulation Element, removing certain language in the goal also removes financial opportunities.

"Keeping identical language will allow you to get funding for open space related grant sources," she said. "I hope this is revisited and brought back into the General Plan."

Arcata resident Dave Meserve hinted that the decision to remove the goal was made out of some of the commissioners' personal interests in development.

"It appears your intention is to favor the interests of big developers and real estate business," he said. "By gutting the General Plan and gutting the environmental portions of it, you're actually shooting yourself in the foot."

American Fisheries Society Fisheries Biologist Ross Taylor also addressed changes made to the Biological Resources section's recommendations for stream buffer zones, stating that they may be doing the opposite of what the plan had previously intended.

"I doubt these will protect the fish, and I don't think they will result in any restoration of habitat for fish," Taylor said.

The commission moved up the last item on the meeting agenda to finalize straw votes made during its 45-day review and turn them into action votes.

Morris said this was done as a result of the deadline.

"We don't know if this will be our final meeting," he said.

No decisions were made on the straw votes made before the Times-Standard deadline.

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504 or whouston@times-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter.com/Will_S_Houston.

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