The recent article on “Reinventing Scotia” (Nov. 26) was a good summary of what has transpired over the last few years as the company town begins its transition to an independent and self-sustaining community. The article quoted Professor Beth Wilson who stated “What might be more common to see is wealthier people might ... buy a couple of lots next to each other, tear down the existing homes, and build something larger.” This will not happen in Scotia.
In addition to approving the General Plan amendment and rezoning request (as well as a subdivision map) the Board of Supervisors certified the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for the project. One of the major issues analyzed in the EIR was the potential impacts to the town’s historic resources. A detailed historic resources report prepared as part of the Draft EIR concluded that the Town of Scotia meets the eligibility requirements for historic district status, with the period of significance being between 1896 and 1959. Overall, 341 structures were identified as being historically significant including “visible aspects of the streetscape as character-defining features.”
Both the Humboldt County General Plan and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) require protection of culturally significant resources including avoiding loss or degradation of these resources. In compliance, a Design Control (D) combining zone was applied to the residential and commercial areas of the town. The D combining zone establishes a design review committee and process that addresses new construction, remodeling, and demolition. Design Guidelines were prepared and incorporated into the ordinance establishing the D combining zone. These guidelines address site planning and relationship to surroundings; scale, height, and massing of buildings; materials, texture and colors; light and signage; and landscape elements. The guidelines require a “review of applications to alter or demolish all or part of any structure identified as a historic structure for consistency with the design guidelines and for compatibility with existing historic structures.” The application and compliance of the D combing zone will be recorded with each property deed as well as through real estate “disclosure” requirements. In summary, the D combining zone (along with other restrictions imposed by P and Q combining zones) will maintain the historic integrity of individual elements as well as new construction. In short, Professor Wilson’s statement is not likely to occur as combining lots and building larger structures would not be allowed under the guidelines.
The EIR did find that the project could result in a change in the “ways in which people live, work, play, and relate to one another,” and acknowledged changes in the social fabric over time. Future residents may or may not have any connection or “common bond” with Scotia as a timber town or a timber production heritage. However, CEQA only requires identification and mitigation of physical changes to the environment. While the occupants of historic structures will change, the structures themselves will remain much like they have for the last 100 years.
Michael Sweeney, Consulting Environmental Planner, Ferndale