Last-minute comments delay general plan decision until December
Listening to the advice of legal counsel, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors delayed a final decision on the general plan update following a public hearing Nov. 12, but it appears very likely that the supervisors will adopt the plan Dec. 17 when they are scheduled to discuss it again.
Last Tuesday’s public hearing provided the first opportunity for the supervisors to share their thoughts on the general plan update and environmental impact report, which they did in front of a crowd of about 100 in the fairgrounds’ Mineral Building.
Twenty individuals made comments during the public hearing, with nine speaking in favor of adopting the plan, 10 speaking against it and one encouraging the board to tweak just one portion of the document. Most of those who commented reiterated remarks they had made during previous opportunities to address the general plan.
In addition to those who commented in person, others submitted written comments. And it was those comments that caused Planning Director Randy Wilson to ask the supervisors for time to respond to those remarks.
“I recommend that you not make a decision today,” Wilson said. “Staff would like to come back with a written response.”
Wilson read off a list of written comments that he had just received, including one from the High Sierra Rural Alliance.
While Supervisor Jon Kennedy appeared ready to move forward anyway, County Counsel Craig Settlemire, and James Moose, the Sacramento-based environmental attorney hired by the county to assist with the general plan process, both recommended waiting.
Moose referred to the High Sierra letter as a “last-minute dump” that is very common.
“In these situations take the time to carefully study it,” Moose said. He advised the supervisors that they “could talk today, but don’t take final action.”
While taking additional time to respond won’t prevent parties from filing a lawsuit, it would give the county a document that is more legally defensible.
Most of those who spoke against adopting the general plan during the public hearing expressed fear that their private property rights would be eroded.
Kennedy addressed that fear in his remarks. “I can’t find any evidence whatsoever about stripping private property rights,” he said.
Kennedy said that while there were a few areas within the plan that concerned him, those could be changed.
“When this is adopted, the world isn’t going to end,” Kennedy told those assembled.
Supervisor Lori Simpson said that she was “distressed about Miss Duber,” the woman who signed the High Sierra letter.
“She has to wave her rod and stop the world for us again,” Simpson said. “How much can you change without going through CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) again?”
Moose, the attorney who specializes in CEQA, said, “If you make changes that make the environment worse.”
As people were filing out at the conclusion of the hearing, a visibly frustrated Simpson said, “You have to let people know that we are caught in the middle of the extreme right and the extreme left.”
Throughout the process, Simpson has expressed frustration with one side saying that the general plan is too restrictive and the other maintaining that it isn’t restrictive enough.
Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, who served on the planning commission before being elected supervisor, said, “I think that no matter what we do, someone is going to sue us.”
While the supervisors were advised not to make any final decisions, Kennedy suggested they address specific items that could be changed, such as the way activities were defined in a timber production zone.
He also discussed the word “sustainable” — a lightning rod for those opposed to the plan — and the definition used in the general plan. The definition used includes the words “to live and prosper.”
“I have the right to not want to prosper,” Kennedy said.
Senior planner Becky Herrin said the definition was taken directly from the state’s general plan guidelines.
Thrall agreed with Kennedy and asked that the word “prosper” be removed from the definition.
“We don’t have any issue with removing it,” Planning Director Wilson said.
Board chairman Terry Swofford asked about the inclusion of the greenhouse emissions report, which is now known to include inaccurate information.
A resolution stating that the greenhouse gas inventory shall not be used will be added to the documents.
Supervisor Kevin Goss, who became a board member toward the end of the process, said that he became a supervisor at “a critical time in our county.”
He thanked county staff and the public for their work on the general plan.
The planning department, along with its consultants, will address the issues raised in the most recent letter submitted by High Sierra Rural Alliance, which questions the adequacy of both the general plan update and the environmental impact report.
Other documents that were received either Nov. 11 or 12 included letters from the Plumas-Sierra Farm Bureau, the Upper Feather River Watershed Group, Cedric Twight, Mark Mihevc and attorney Richard M. Ross.
Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said she didn’t think it was fair that the written comments would be given further consideration, when the people who commented during the public hearing had actually made the effort to appear in person.
County Counsel Craig Settlemire said that the planning department could review and respond to those comments as well.