Eureka Council votes 5-0 to rezone cemetery-side “weed-filled lot”
By Thomas Bradshaw
Lost Coast Brewery may well continue brewing their craft ales in Eureka after all.
A packed house at Eureka City Hall tonight encouraged a unanimous vote by Councilmembers to approve a zoning change in LCBs favor.
The property on the south side of a cemetery along Highway 101 was zoned public, and a few of the neighbors wished to keep it that way — along with the ocean views they enjoyed over the fallow parcel.
Their views were overwhelmed by in-person appearances from a who’s who of local business people, economic development gurus and even a letter from Humboldt County Supervisors Jimmy Smith and Virginia Bass, all of whom were enthusiastic about the proposal.
“The cemetery properties have been in discussion for years,” Peter Oringer, Marketing Committee chair for the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Council. “Most of us know Barbara and know how much she invests her time and efforts in the community.”
Oringer was referring to Barbara Groom, the owner of LCB and applicant for the zone reclassification and General Plan amendment. She was in the audience for the vote, but let her project managers and numerous supporters do the talking; LACO Associates, the consulting firm leading the design for the project along with architect Julian Berg, re-drafted their plans after an earlier version was shot down by the Eureka Planning Commission last year.
While the LCB brewpup downtown will be unaffected by the project, the actual brewing facility on the west end of Third Street has outgrown its facility, and bureaucratic opposition from the Coastal Commission has precluded any expansion there. The new spot will grow from a simple industrial brewing plant to also include tours, a gift shop and a tasting room designed to appeal to out-of-county visitors.
Tim and Donna Dougherty pleaded with the Council to make the LCB move to the northern part of the parcel, which would dramatically increase the site design expenses due to the steep and hilly nature of the area. Tim Dougherty said he’d developed nearby affordable housing and would see “devastating” losses to his property values, even threatening legal action against the developer if the city moved forward.
“We are the ones who are totally affected by this,” he said. “They are getting the benefit and we are paying the entire cost.”
Yet this point was parried by Larry Doss, who is a neighboring land owner to the LCB parcel. He claimed that property values would stay level or even increase due to the infrastructure improvements brought about by the project, including increased connectivity to the sewer system.
“I am concerned about a few choices, but I’m more concerned about the jobs,” Doss said.
The new project promises to create 30 jobs directly, which would translate into the indirect creation of 100 more according to Humboldt County Economic Development Coordinator Jacqueline Debets. This point alone tipped the balance for most of the elected representatives on the dias.
“I’m convinced that the staff has done a tremendous and thorough job in reviewing his project,” Vice Mayor Melinda Ciarabellini said.
Councilmember Marian Brady went further, dismissing the complaints of neighbors having a view of a “weed-filled lot” taken away.
“I think some of those claims get a little bit exaggerated,” she said.
The Council voted 5-0 in favor of a motion made by Mike Newman and seconded by Linda Atkins to rezone the property, formerly belonging to the Catholic Church, from Public to Service Commercial.
The Planning Commission’s approval of a Conditional Use Permit for the actual construction of the brewery will not come to the Council unless appealed by a local resident. The LCB building will also have to undergo Design Review Commission hearings on the site specifics.