Board of Supervisors turns down charter school zoning request

Karisa Joseph of Greenville speaks before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on March 14 in support of amending the county zoning code to allow schools in areas zoned for light industrial.

The fireworks during the Plumas County Board of Supervisors’ meeting March 15 came about concerning whether the countyzoning code should be amended to allow schools in light industrial zones.

Craig Settlemire, county counsel, pointed out that the discussion was not about whether Plumas Charter School should be allowed to move into a specific location within a light industrial zone, but whether schools in general should be allowed in light industrial zones.

Still, it was hard for people to keep their arguments to that point. PCS has another measure going through the planning process to make an exception for a particular location within Quincy’s light industrial zone. The charter school would like to purchase property at 424 North Mill Creek Road for its Quincy Learning Center.

The board was clearly moved by the appeals made by the proponents of the charter school for the needs of the school’s students. The board pointed out that they were looking out for the health and safety of the students, as well as the other interests of the county.

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Supervisor Michael Sanchez said, “The safety of the kids should come first.”

Supervisor Jeff Engel added, “I’m not against the charter school, but I’m also for child safety.”

Board Chair Lori Simpson said that she was upset that the board was “put in the middle of a fight between PUSD and Plumas Charter School.” She said she was “pretty torn up” about the situation.

However, in regards to the proposed change to the light industrial zoning, Sanchez said, “In this case, the end doesn’t justify the means.”

In the end, the board voted unanimously to not go forward with an amendment to light industrial zoning.

Lori Pini receives a certificate of appreciation from Mimi Hall, director of the Plumas County Public Health Agency, and the Plumas County Board of Supervisors for her 16 years of service March 14. From left: Lori Simpson, chair of the board; Lori Pini and Mimi Hall. In front of Pini is her son, Colton Meeks. Photos by Steve Wathen

Thank you to Lori Pini

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Lori Pini received a certificate of appreciation and recognition from her boss, Mimi Hall, and the board for her 16 years of service to the Plumas County Public Health Agency.

Pini worked her way up in the agency to become health education coordinator and head of the agency’s emergency preparedness program. Hall said, “You have been the face of public health in Plumas County and an asset to the whole county.”

County receives $1.6 million

Hall reported to the board that her agency had received over $1 million in funding from the California Department of Health Care Services to pay for dental care for indigent children who are not currently receiving care.

The health agency also received $450,000 from the same department to help reduce prescription drug use and abuse among 12 to 25 year-olds.

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In addition, the agency received $150,000 from the state for its new Wellness and Prevention pilot program. This pilot program will hire a Spanish-speaking health education outreach worker.

All of these are multiple-year funds. Only $124,000 of the total $1.6 million is to be used between now and July 1, 2018.

The agency didn’t actively apply for most of this money. Butte County led the child dental care funding effort and included Plumas County. The state of California initiated the funding for prescription drug education for Plumas and five other counties.

Hall noted, “If you do well in one area, it will attract more money.” For instance, the California Health Care Foundation is using Plumas, Lassen, Sierra, and Modoc counties’ Coalition to Reduce Opioid Deaths and abuse as a model for other counties to use.

Most of $1.6 million comes from federal funds funneled through the state.

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Lastly, Hall asked the board to transfer already allocated agency money to purchase a used car. This car will be used by new public health nurse Katherine Stafford to visit 100 seniors located throughout the county.

The high costs of murder

In the summer of 2015, Sheldon Steward and Trevor Holminski came up to Buck’s Lake from the Bay Area. Steward is accused of killing Holminski and then starting a forest fire to destroy the evidence.

Settlemire requested that the board transfer $41,000 of already allocated funds from general services to pay for public defenders for the four- to six-week trial scheduled to begin in May.

Roberta Allen, county auditor-controller, added that the $41,000 “only covers what we have already spent, so there will be more.”

Allen also reminded the board that state law no longer reimburses a county for the defense of homicide cases if the county spent more than $100,000 per case. The law was amended so that counties are now only reimbursed if the county spends more than $400,000 in a given year on all its murder cases.

District Attorney David Hollister said that there was no way the county was going to spend that much money. Therefore, the county will most likely be stuck with the total costs of the defense.

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Arguments for and against allowing schools in light industrial zones including Plumas Charter’s specific request.

Arguments for:

– Plumas Charter School has to be out of its current Quincy location by June 2018.

– 200 students need a home.

– Plumas Charter School used to be housed in a light industrial zone in Quincy.

– Day care centers and individual homes are allowed in light industrial zones.

– In the past, children used to go to schools in Quincy that had potential health problems that would not pass muster today.

– Eleven other counties in northern California allow schools in light industrial zones.

– Finding a home for an existing school shouldn’t be such an arduous task.

Arguments against:

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– Plumas County has very little land zoned for light industrial.

– Light industrial is often contiguous to heavy industrial, acting as a buffer between heavy industrial and high-density residential land use.

– It is not fair to current businesses to drop a school into their midst.

– Sierra Pacific has told the board that the presence of a school near its operations would put its environmental permitting at risk.

– Once a school is put in an area, it is hard to get it out.

– “Spot zoning,” changing general zoning regulations to allow for a single exception, is not good policy.

– State law requires that any general change to zoning regulations be comprehensive and in compliance with both the county’s general plan and environmental reviews.

– Problems with traffic and access posed by students entering and leaving a school site located in an industrial zone.

– Changing the zoning would require an environmental review that could cost $100,000, This would be paid for by county taxpayers.

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– Making an exception to existing zoning regulations for one location requires environmental review to be paid for by the applicant.

– The previous existence of Plumas Charter School within a light industrial zone was not sanctioned by the county. School districts have the legal right to place schools wherever they please, even in violation of county zoning regulations.

– Any change to zoning regulations will stand for years, perhaps causing unanticipated problems down the road.