It was standing-room only at yesterday's special meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.
"Was it something I said?" joked Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, who last week expressed confusion and concern over the general plan update process and suggested possible changes to that process. Many, including this reporter and Sundberg's fellow supervisor, Mark Lovelace, interpreted those comments as the opening salvo in an effort to undo some or all of the work that has been done on the update process thus far. Not so, Sundberg asserted.
"Just to be clear, I don't want to kill the general plan. I don't want to start over." Sundberg said he was just seeking a way to clearly track the changes between the existing framework plan, which has been in effect since 1984, and the updated draft, 12 years in the making and approved by the planning commission. "I take responsibility for my part in not being clear about that," Sundberg said.
Interim Planning and Building Department Director Martha Spencer then laid out a proposed method to help make things more clear. For each element of the general plan under consideration, Spencer said, staff would prepare two reports: one looking back and the other looking forward. Report No. 1 would compare the framework plan with the planning commission-approved draft (as Sundberg requested) and provide background on the reasons for any changes. This would be prepared prior to any board vote on the element in question.
Report No. 2 would be prepared after the vote, examining the big-picture implications of the board's decision, clearly stating the changes that had been made to the framework plan and providing a potential blueprint for implementation.
Sundberg was pleased, and tranquility settled across the land.
Or not. The crowd had come loaded for bear, and while many commenters eased off the trigger in appreciation of Sundberg's comments, most fired away. Developers, contractors and other property-rights advocates thanked the three conservative supervisors for the suggestion they now disavowed -- namely, starting from scratch with the 1984 framework plan and updating it just enough to comply with state and federal laws.
Others, including environmental activists, argued that the update process represents years of hard work and compromise from all corners and urged the board to move forward.
Even county planning commissioners, who spent years helping to craft the current draft plan, disagreed on the best approach. Current Second District Commissioner Mel Kreb urged the board to respect the efforts of others. "You inherited the work done by previous supervisors, planning department staff and the planning commission. You need to ask yourself if you trust any of the work that those people did, because you repeatedly hear from people here who say you should not trust anything that's ever been done in this process. And I just reject that idea outright. It's an insult," Kreb said. "You must get to work."
But former commission chair Jeff Smith urged the board to think independently. "None of you were on the board when this ship set sail ... but the bottom line is, whether you've been on the board for 15 minutes or 15 years, it doesn't matter. This is gonna be your plan, and it's up to you to do what you think is right."
Public comments continued for nearly three hours, leaving the supervisors no time to proceed with the task at hand -- continuing its review of the general plan's land use element. Instead, the board elected to skip the remainder of that contentious element for now and move on to chapters five and six (community infrastructure/services and telecommunications) at the next meeting, to be held Oct. 1. Staff will prepare new reports for those chapters, as proposed.