General Plan schedule met with doubt

From the June 2, 2010 issue

By Daniel Mintz
Press Staff Writer

The Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a new timeline for work on the General Plan Update and an oft-split Planning Commission has been able to reach consensus on the schedule’s infeasibility.
The Commission’s pace of work on the Update was discussed at the May 25 supervisors meeting and the May 27 commission meeting. At the supervisors meeting, there some doubt about whether the new schedule – which has commission completing its Update work on Nov. 18 – is doable.
Supervisor Jill Duffy said there’s “no room for error” with the revised timeline, as it would oblige the commission to meet every week. “I’m sorry, I don’t think it’s reasonable,” she continued.
Acknowledging the new schedule as being “very aggressive,” Supervisor Mark Lovelace, who agendized it, said it’s also “reflective of the Planning Commission has already been doing over the course of the last year.” He added that the intent is to “clarify what it is that we’re expecting of them.”
Lovelace said the commission’s role should be better defined. The intent is to “clarify that the role is to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and not to write the General Plan on the fly,” Lovelace continued.
Supervisors approved the new schedule but agreed to define it as a goal, not a mandate.
A subcommittee comprised of the chairs and vice-chairs of the board and the commission met two days before the supervisors meeting to talk about revising the schedule. It will meet periodically to discuss the pace of work.
During a public comment session, representatives of the Northern California Association of Home Builders, the Humboldt Coalition of Property Rights and the Humboldt Association of Realtors all expressed doubts or opposition to the new timeline. And two days later, so did members of the Planning Commission.
At their meeting, commissioners upheld their work as being valuable and worth the extra time. “Why the hell are we busting our butts trying to do this job,” said Commissioner Dennis Mayo. “If you do a half-assed job, you get a half-assed product.”
Newly-appointed Commissioner Denver Nelson was just as blunt. “I think this schedule’s ridiculous,” he said, explaining that it doesn’t allow the commission enough time for permit hearings. Referring to the commissioners’ status as volunteers, he added, “What are they going to do, fire us all?”
Girard had said that supervisors modified their language to define the schedule as their intent, not their directive. Either way, commissioners believe the timeline is difficult.
Commissioner Mel Kreb said he’d expected a two meeting per month responsibility and the new timeline would require meeting every week. “It does cause a personal hardship for me,” he continued.
Commission Vice Chairman Ralph Faust, a member of the board/commission subcommittee, said that if the commission continues at its current pace, it will be at least 2012 before it completes it work on the Update. He told his colleagues that if supervisors want things to be quicker, the commission should respond but it will mean that the work will have to be done differently.
Faust later added, “I would have to report, as a member of this subcommittee … that looking at this schedule, a majority of this commission does not think that this schedule can reasonably be met – and so if the Board wants the commission to meet this schedule, they need to say so.”
Commission Chairman Jeffrey C. Smith, who’s also on the subcommittee, said he’s “willing to give (the new schedule) a shot.” He added that the commission’s thorough work will allow supervisors to do theirs “in short order.”
“I want to see a good product,” said Smith.
Another subcommittee meeting will be set up to further discuss the scheduling issue.


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