Backpedaling County Supervisors Changing Direction of GPU
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors held a continued public hearing yesterday to finish deliberations
on draft sections of the County’s General Plan Update.
It is blatantly obvious the new junior Board additions– Supervisors Fennell and Bohn, along with more senior members Bass and Sundberg – have a combined agenda unraveling the direction and focus of the GPU to benefit private interests. They’re already lining up with realtors to allow development in the flood plain of the Arcata Bottoms.
The following is an open letter by Don Ehresman of the Northcoast Environmental Center of what transpired.
Supervisors Make Substantial Changes to GPU Guiding Principles– Despite Pleas for Robust Public Review Process
By Don Ehresman
Northcoast Environmental Center
Despite requests from many speakers, including Hezekiah Allen of the Mattole Restoration Council and local resident Lisa Zystro for more time to review a new set of principles that were released just three days before the hearing, the Board voted 4-1 to substantially alter the original Guiding Principles.
The original principles were developed with significant public input over several years and unanimously approved by both the Board of Supervisors in 2004 and then by the Planning Commission, with a few minor changes, in 2012.
Supervisor Fennell, after emphasizing the importance of public participation, decided against giving another two weeks for the public to review and comment on the major changes to the Guiding Principles.
Supervisor Bohn made a claim that he felt the new Principles, which were developed behind closed doors, were representative of the community as a whole despite significant concerns brought up by many members of the public in attendance.
Supervisors Bass and Sundberg were quick to support the new language, leaving Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace to be the lone dissenting voice.
In response to the outcome of Monday’s hearing, Northcoast Environmental Center director Dan Ehresman stated,
“The Board’s decision to approve a brand new set of Guiding Principles absent even a week for public review greatly undermines the very idea of robust public participation that this Board supposedly supports.”
Speaking specifically about the newly adopted principles Ehresman continued:
Specifically, the Board decided to take out all reference to protecting forests and farmland from further subdivision – which was an underlying concept that has community support.
Moreover, the Board voted to remove a key principle that spoke to the importance of including actionable plans for funding critical infrastructure needs.
Given vastly outdated water and sewer lines and a $200 million backlog in costs needed to repair failing roads, one would hope that our government representatives might want to take this issue at least a little seriously.”
The new version also eliminates support of the County’s economic development strategy and prioritizes landowners’ rights over the rights of those who do not own property and over environmental protections in general.
Ehresman concluded, “Overall, we fear that the Board’s decision marks a very clear turning point away from a meaningful public process that seeks to balance the interests of our broad community in favor of one that serves the self-interest of some developers, realtors, and large property owners.
About the Northcoast Environmental Center
The mission of the Northcoast Environmental Center is to promote understanding of the relations between people and the biosphere and to conserve, protect, and celebrate terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems of northern California and southern Oregon.
For more information, please contact:
Northcoast Environmental Center
PO Box 4259
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For more background on the issue we would suggest reading Daniel Mintz’s article in the Arcata Eye, “Supervisors Line Up With Realtors, OK Flood Plain Development” along with Ryan Burns’ piece in the NCJ: “Fennell and Bohn Seek to Rewrite Guiding Principles of General Plan Update“
The Times-Standard carried a very brief article, “Humboldt County Supervisors to Tackle General Plan Issues at Public Hearing on Monday“
And we’ve given it our previous Pith and Punch treatment, too.
We predicted that with the new incoming majority Supervisors the GPU would change, becoming a “Dead Plan Walking.”
Images by the Humboldt Sentinel