From the 12.12.12 issue
By Daniel Mintz
Press Staff Writer
The work of a recently-formed stakeholders group for the county’s General Plan Update has gotten an initial airing and it’s been described as labor-intensive but minimally different than what the Board of Supervisors is working off of.
The stakeholders include representatives of the divergent groups that have commented on the update. The most noteworthy aspect of their review of the update’s Circulation Element is a recommendation to create a countywide transportation plan.
But most of the stakeholders group’s recommendations are wording changes that intend to clarify policies and the definitions of the terms used in them.
The group’s members have worked hard to produce a partial review of the Circulation Element. At a Dec. 3 Board of Supervisors update hearing, decision-making on the element was held off to allow the group to finish its review.
Supervisors Clif Clendenen and Mark Lovelace said they didn’t notice much departure from the Planning Commission’s version of the update, which supervisors are using as a draft. Members of the group said they strived to add clarity so that policies won’t be misunderstood.
Supervisor Ryan Sundberg has expressed doubt about the structure of the update process and the cohesiveness of its contents and he said the stakeholders’ work is promising. “I think you guys have hit some of the stuff that I’ve come across and just don’t know exactly what it means – you’ve been able to clarify it,” he continued.
He said the update “will be a much better product with you guys wordsmithing this stuff and making sure that it’s clear to all the different people in Humboldt County that would read this and do projects.”
Asked about further work, stakeholders group member Hezekiah Allen told supervisors that he’d “curb my eternal optimism” and not commit the group to reviewing other elements or finishing the Circulation Element quickly. He said he’s confident that the group could finish the element by the next hearing on Dec. 17, but there was some rumbling from other group members in the audience, causing a pause and some uncomfortable laughter.
Allen pointed out that the group’s partial review is the outcome of “600 human hours” of toil.
“We’ve been doing a lot of thinking, internally, about how we can streamline this,” he said, adding that the “large conceptual trust issues” among the group’s members need to be dealt with first.
Commenting on the initial round of recommendations, County Planner Martha Spencer said the idea of a countywide transportation plan “isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it would be great thing.” But she added that “there’s a little bit of overlap” with the Humboldt County Association of Governments’ regional transportation planning process.
“We were fine with the changes, a lot of times we thought they did add a lot of clarity,” she said, referring to the group’s rewordings.
Earlier, the new group’s members said they’re enthused by what’s happened in its meetings. “There’s so much more agreement than anyone thought,” said Jen Rice of the Humboldt Area Foundation.
The hearing was continued to Dec. 17. It was the first public meeting for newly-hired Planning Director Kevin Hamblin, who said planning staff only have minor suggestions for changes to the group’s work.
During a public comment period, the board majority that voted to hire Hamblin was congratulated for making a sound choice by Kay Backer of the HELP developers group and Julie Williams of the Northern California Association of Homebuilders.
“It’s not going to be business as usual at the Planning Department with him here,” said Williams.