County planning commission considers school use on industrially zoned land

The meeting started with four commissioners present.

Of the seven items for discussion on the planning agenda for Feb. 2, commissioner John Olofson put on five.

After a half-hour or so of Olofson talking about matters that concerned him, Chairman Larry Williams made a motion to close the two-hour meeting so that “people could get something to eat.”

At which point, Vice Chair Dr. Shauna Rossington clearly stressed, said: “A drink would be more like it.”

Olofson suddenly made a motion instead that Rossington replace Williams as chair of the commission and that Dr. Robert Abbott  be made vice chair.

Someone quickly seconded the motion and Olofson, Rossington and Abbot voted yes.

As quickly as that, it was over; both the meeting and William’s tenure as chair.

Williams and many others in the room were stunned. Some stood in small groups discussing what just happened.

Then everyone left for lunch.

The Trilogy Property

Taletha Washburn, executive director of Plumas Charter School, came to the meeting hoping she could address the committee concerning rezoning of the Trilogy building in Quincy, 468 North Mill Creek Road, that the school was hoping to purchase and occupy.

Washburn wants the county to allow the school to use the property, zoned light industrial, or to rezone the property so that the school can use the property.

Washburn didn’t realize that, according to California’s open meeting law (the Brown Act), agenda items have to be announced before a meeting begins so that people have a chance to come and participate on items that concern them.

Randy Wilson, director of county planning and building services, started off the meeting letting everyone know that he could not be present during a discussion of rezoning of any piece of property.

Wilson explained that this was because he would later be acting in a quasi-judicial matter in deciding the matter.

He said, “We create a firewall, that once an application is filed, I stay away from it. … I don’t have [an economic] conflict of interest, but ethically, I could be challenged.”

Wilson also explained that there is one property owner and four entities involved in the property Plumas Charter School wants to buy and that one entity has already filed for a zoning change.

He explained that there are some legal issues as to whether two zoning actions can take place at the same time.

Wilson explained all of this in some detail.

Agenda items

The first item for discussion on the commission’s agenda was put there by commissioner Dr. Shauna Rossington. It involved the Trilogy property that Plumas Charter School was interested in buying and occupying.

Rossington shared a portion of the current Plumas County code that she thought supported letting the school occupy a building currently zoned for light industrial.

Rossington and senior planner Rebbecca Herrin went back and forth on how to interpret the code.

Herrin argued that the phrase Rossington was referring to had been taken out of its context, noting: “You have to read the whole thing.”

At some point Rossington, exasperated, exclaimed, “It shouldn’t be this difficult.”

  To which, Wilson tried to explain that according to California law planning has to take place in a certain way. He also explained that changes to the county’s general plan require environmental and public review, a somewhat lengthy process.

Wilson warned the commission, “If you touch something in the general plan, it requires CEQA.” CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act governing environmental review of developments.

Wilson also pointed out that changes in zoning for a given piece of property doesn’t go to the owner of the property, but stays with the property. Therefore, decisions have long-term consequences.

The General Plan guides all county development.

Title 9 of the Plumas County Code of Ordinances (Plumas county code) are the rules put in place to define what can and cannot be done in terms of planning and zoning according to the general plan.

General Plan Report

Discussion then moved on to the annual progress report for the general plan. The general plan guides planning in Plumas County.

Herrin noted that the annual progress report details what the county did in 2016 to implement the general plan.

Olofson said, “I want to thank Becky, ever so much, for the work she has done to produce this report.”

Updating the county code

In his first agenda item, Olofson wanted to know how much time Wilson thought it would take to bring the county’s planning code into compliance with the county’s general plan.

Wilson responded that it would take a long time, maybe years.

Olofson then asked if there was any way this could be delayed. Wilson responded that this compliance should have been undertaken when the county was doing environmental review for and writing the general plan.

However, Wilson said, the county had decided at that time to finish the general plan first.

Wilson noted that having the county code out of agreement with the county’s general plan could lead to lawsuits, such as those that have occurred in Sierra County.

Wilson proposed that the commission prioritize what changes were most important to make in Title 9 of the code and then hire a consulting firm familiar with the process to do the work.

A master recreation plan

Olofson next noted that there was nothing in the general plan that referred to a countywide master recreation plan.

Olofson felt strongly that the county had to do something to help the county’s economy.

He noted that the county had a plethora of recreational resources, but that the Forest Service wouldn’t let large mechanized recreation events take place in Plumas National Forest.

Olofson declared that Plumas National Forest was the “laughing stock” of national forests in the state because of this.

Exasperated, Olofson declared, “I don’t give a damn what the Forest Service wants, or what they don’t want. The times are changing.”

Eyesores and Quincy streets

Olofson next referred to some tin shacks that were visible along Highway 70. He said the shacks were eyesores. He wondered if the county could just dismantle them.

Randy responded that they were in an area that the county, through its general plan, had zoned for industrial. Someone else noted that the shacks were private property and therefore that the owners had property rights.

Olofson next described that he had met with several businesses in Quincy and they were all in favor of changing the traffic pattern in Quincy back to the way it was 50 years ago.

The end

At noon, Wilson mentioned to the commission that it could continue to meet, but that he had to leave soon to testify before the Board of Supervisors.

It was at this point that Williams offered a motion to end the meeting and Olofson issued his counter motion.

2 thoughts on “County planning commission considers school use on industrially zoned land

  • February 21, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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    “Olofson next described that he had met with several businesses in Quincy and they were all in favor of changing the traffic pattern in Quincy back to the way it was 50 years ago.”

    Exactly what was the traffic pattern in Quincy 50 years ago? And what are the advantages of reverting to it now?

  • February 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm
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    Olofson is the one who is laughable.
    the PNF has an obligation to manage for “sustained yield, multiple use”
    and not just for what one group or interest wants anytime, anywhere.
    I own property here and want an economy that values the environment and people;
    not snowcross rallies, which (like motorcycle events) can take place on private land also.
    Reasonable off-roading is the best approach, not bullying tactics.

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