What to do about the planning commission?

Planning Commissioner John Olofson speaks to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on April 18, in Quincy. Photo by Steve Wathen

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors put the planning commission into hibernation back on April 18. Members of the planning commission asked the board of supervisors Aug. 8 about the status of the commission: Was the board going to fill the two vacancies on the commission or was it going to abolish the commission altogether.

Michael Sanchez and other supervisors said that the commission has been an asset to Plumas County in the past and could be again.

However, Supervisors Sanchez, Lori Simpson and Sherri Thrall seemed to believe that commissioner John Olofson was disruptive, had his own agenda that didn’t fit with what the commission was charged to do and needed to be removed for the commission to function.

Problems

Olofson often took over planning commission meetings talking about the need for his version of a recreation plan for the county.

On April 18, he lectured the board of supervisors at length on the need for the recreation plan. After that, Lori Simpson, board chairwoman, told Olofson, “I just wanted to remind the commissioners, you serve at the pleasure of the board and you can be removed at the pleasure of the board.”

The five-person board was short two members on April 18 and another commissioner was out of the county. Therefore, it didn’t have a quorum to meet. The board decided April 18 to put the commission into hibernation and review the fate of the commission in two months.

Letter writing

Since the commission has been in hibernation, Olofson has been writing a letter to the editor each week that were often critical of the planning department and the board of supervisors.

At its meeting Aug. 8, the board again addressed the question of Olofson and the commission.

Concerning the commission, Simpson asked. “Are they going to do what we ask them to do or are they going to go rogue?”

Referring to the letters to the editor, Simpson testified, “I resent being in the paper every week.”

Simpson said she was particularly upset by Olofson’s comments concerning the closing of the convalescent home in Quincy. She pointed out, “The closing of the convalescent home was one of the darkest days of my life. My grandparents were in there.”

Superintendent Sherrie Thrall testified that she, too, was offended by Mr. Olofson’s letters, but that she also believed in freedom of speech.

What to do about Olofson and the commission

Thrall noted she was on the planning commission before she became a supervisor. She declared, “The planning commission does not run the planning department.” Moreover, she added, “I don’t think the mission of the planning commission should be economic development. We already have a committee for that.”

Thrall emphasized, “It is critically important that the right person is appointed to the commission. We know what can happen when the wrong person is appointed.”

Thrall then revealed that she had an individual from her district that was willing to join the commission. However, she added, “This is a high quality person I don’t want to throw into a snake pit.” Supervisor Kevin Goss added that he had two to three people who said they would serve on the commission.

Sanchez offered that he thought that replacing Olofson might be for the best.

Since Olofson represents Supervisor Jeff Engel’s district; Engel was asked if he would dismiss Olofson.

Engel replied, “It will be this board’s decision to replace John, because I won’t do it.”

Thrall motioned that the board agendize what role the commission was to have if it was reinvigorated.

Background

The board reinstated the Planning Commission in March  2005 in order to update the county’s general plan.

On Feb. 2, Randy Wilson, planning director and zoning administrator, told planning commission members, “The Commission cannot change the zoning code, but can only provide a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for a change to the zoning code.” In addition, “The Planning Commission does not have development review authority; that authority is granted by the board to the Zoning Administrator.”

The board recently brought back the commission from hibernation in order to help work on the county’s new telecommunications ordinance.

Duties of the Planning Commission

Sec. 2-2.107: The Planning Commission shall:

(a) Periodically review and recommend action on the general plan for the County;

(b) Periodically review and recommend action on any specific plans for the County;

(c) Periodically review and recommend action on the zoning ordinances of the County; and

(d) Initiate amendments to boundaries of zones.

Removal from office

Sec. 2-2.104:

Planning commissioners may be removed from the commission, prior to the expiration of the term established by Section 2-2.103, by majority vote of the Board.