From the Feb. 29, 2012 edition.
By Jack Durham
By this summer McKinleyville may have a stronger voice when it comes to commenting on services like planning, roads and police protection provided by the County of Humboldt to the unincorporated community.
Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg is bringing a proposal before the Board of Supervisors to create a long-awaited McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC), which would be made up of McKinleyville residents.
Sundberg said he would like to have the board vote on creating the committee at the end of March. If the MAC is approved, community members would be invited to apply for the committee, which could start holding its first meetings this summer.
But before the Board of Supervisors votes on the MAC, Sundberg said he wants to get community input on the committee, how its structured, what it does and how members would be chosen. That input can then be used to fine tune the details before it goes to a vote.
Being that McKinleyville is unincorporated and not a city, it depends on the County of Humboldt for planning, police, roads and a variety of other services.
The McKMAC would be charged with gathering community input and commenting on matters of concern which relate to county services provided to McKinleyville.
The committee could comment on anything involving roads, drainage, public works, police protection, animal control, health and safety in McKinleyville.
The McKMAC would also enter the realm of land use planning by reviewing, commenting and providing advisory recommendations to the Humboldt County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors on proposed zoning amendments and General Plan amendments within McKinleyville.
The McKMAC would also discuss and make recommendations about long-term planning issues.
What the McKMAC would not do
Sundberg said in order for the McKMAC to be effective, it needs to be focused. Because of this, the McKMAC proposal also spells out what the committee would not do.
The McKMAC is not intended to address county-wide issues, Sundberg said. The focus must be on county services and how they relate to McKinleyville.
When it comes to planning, the McKMAC would not review or provide recommendations on subdivisions, conditional use permits, special permits, coastal development permits, or variances, unless the projects are part of a larger project which General Plan amendment or zone reclassification.
The proposal also makes it clear that the McKMAC is an advisory body only.
“The MMAC will make recommendations on proposed zoning, General Plan petitions and amendments, but is not a decision–making body. The MMAC will not have authority to make, set, provide interpretation of or enforce county ordinances, policies or laws,” states the draft of the McKMAC rules and regulations.
Why limit the McKMAC?
Besides trying to keep the committee focused, there are budgetary reasons for limiting the scope of the McKMAC’s input when it comes to planning.
If the committee was charged with commenting on everything that comes before the Planning Commission, this would require a substantial amount of staff time to bring all of these projects before the McKMAC. That would cost money during a time when the county is facing budget cuts. That’s why the committee is limited to larger planning issues, like General Plan amendments and long-term planning.
The preparation of meeting packets and posting of agendas would be carried out by the county’s Clerk of the Board. Meeting space would be donated by the McKinleyville Community Services District, and members of the McKMAC would serve without compensation.
The Board of Supervisors would ultimately decide how much money would be spent on the committee.
Although the McKMAC’s responsibilities are focused in his proposal, Sundberg noted that changes could be made in the future.
“This thing is a living document,” he said about the rules and regulations governing the committee.
Another goal of the committee is to encourage better communication between the county, the MCSD and local residents.
The McKMAC will be able to request that county staff members attend meetings and provide information to the committee.
The Humboldt County Planning Division would be required to submit applications for General Plan amendments and zoning changes in McKinleyville to the McKMAC.
Once a month the Humboldt County Public Works Department would provide the committee with current and projected projects in McKinleyville. So the committee would always know which roads are slated to be worked on and when.
The committee would be made up of eight members total. Seven would be voting members. One would be a non-voting member.
The Fifth District Supervisor would select four members. The full Board of Supervisors would select two members. The McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors would select one member (probably one of its directors). The eighth non-voting member would be the manager of the MCSD.
Those who appoint board members would also have the power to remove board members.
To qualify to be on the committee, members would need to be residents, property owners or business owners within McKinleyville.
As for this selection process, Sundberg said “I’m not wedded to this structure.” If community members have a better idea, Sundberg said he’d like to hear it.
‘Needs to be diversified’
Whenever a committee is created, there’s always a concern that it could be hijacked by special interests.
What happens if the McKMAC is stacked with pro-development members? Or anti-growth advocates?
If that were to happen, the committee would no longer be effective, Sundberg said. “This board needs to be diversified to make it work,” he said.
The first step is to get community input. Email Sundberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at (707) 476-2395.
Visit the McKinleyville Press Blog at mckinleyvillepress.wordpress.com, where the draft rules and regs for the McKMAC will be posted this week. You can get into the nitty gritty details, then send you comments to Sundberg.
In a couple weeks, Sundberg will meet with First District Supervisor Jimmy Smith, who wants to create a similar committee for an unincorporated just outside Eureka.
The item will then be brought before the Board of Supervisors sometime at the end of March.
A little history
The creation of a McKMAC was first called for in the 1990s by the McKinleyville Citizens Advisory Committee, which was responsible for updating the McKinleyville General Plan.
That committee meet on and off for nearly a decade hammering out the update, which was finally approved by the Board of Supervisors 12 years ago in 2002.
As part of that plan, a McKMAC was supposed to be created, but it never was.
For a period of time, this was blamed on budget cuts. The county said there wasn’t enough money to create a McKMAC. The idea languished.
Then, in 2006, it resurfaced. Then-supervisor Jill Duffy approached the McKinleyville Community Services District about creating a McKMAC. However, the MCSD had just began studying the idea of incorporation and expanding its services.
The MCSD asked that the McKMAC idea be put on hold until it completed its research.
After conducting a poll, the committee concluded that residents were more or less satisfied with the existing level of service and that no significant changes were needed. The committee didn’t take a position for or against the McKMAC. The idea once again faded away.
Fast forward to 2010.
In the race for Fifth District Supervisor, candidate Patrick Higgins made the creation of a McKMAC and key part of his campaign platform. Higgins lost to Sundberg, but the McKMAC idea was still alive.
Then the county’s Planning Department decided that it wanted to toss out portions of the McKinleyville General Plan and rezone several properties to allow for high-density development. The Planning Department held meetings in McKinleyville to get community input.
The input was overwhelmingly negative. McKinleyville residents didn’t want the high-density development.
The county thanked McKinleyville for its input, then last year proceeded to forge ahead with its rezoning plans.
This sparked the MCSD to take a more active role in planning, even though it doesn’t have planning powers. The MCSD opposed the rezoning and even filed a lawsuit, which is still pending.
The MCSD board began talking about taking on planning powers, creating a McKMAC and doing other things to expand its influence.
Sundberg said he thinks this is the right time to create a McKMAC, which may go a long way towards providing McKinleyville with what it wants – a stronger voice when it comes to county services affecting the community.