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Water conservation, telecommunications public hearings set by planning

Two public hearings are now on the October calendar, following the Sept. 6 regular meeting of the Plumas County Planning Commission.

A public hearing for a zoning code update on a Water Efficient Landscape is set for Oct. 4.

A second public hearing is set for Oct. 18 on the Telecommunications Ordinance.

While not much discussion on the water ordinance is predicted by planning commissioners, a larger group is anticipated for the telecommunications hearing.

Water Efficient Landscape ordinance

“Staff is in agreement that we adopt the state’s model,” said Planning Director Randy Wilson.

He said the planning commission could just quietly adopt the state’s water efficient landscape plan, “But I don’t want to do that.”

There are two water districts within the county — American Valley Community Services District and Chester Public Utilities District — that commissioners need to consider when adopting an ordinance, Wilson explained. “We should have this in place for them.”

Commissioner Jeff Greening said other areas outside Plumas County have attempted to implement their own changes to the state’s plan and have made it a lot worse. “I move that we just kick the landscape down the road,” he added.

California’s model was approved in 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown and is under the state’s Department of Water Resources.

The legislature adopted a water use code in an effort to satisfying increasing demands for water with a limited supply.

One of the code’s conservation goals is to prevent water waste. This includes reducing yard watering times and encouraging new water-reduced landscaping, as well as reduced or limited car washing, installation of low water use toilets and more. A complete list of recommendations is found on the DWR website under Urban Water Use Efficiency.

Urban water refers to all water use not connected to agriculture or to support the environment.

Draft Telecommunications ordinance

Commissioners and members of the planning department continued to smooth out an ordinance update concerning telecommunications.

Of particular interest to commissioners was meeting the needs and concerns of local HAM radio members.

Among their concerns was the tower height on Radio Hill in Quincy and the cost of special use permits should changes occur. The HAM group has a tower on Radio Hill and it serves their needs.

Greening said he was very impressed with the scope of involvement with the Office of Emergency Services he heard locals discuss.

“Can you figure a way around a special use permit?” asked commissioner John Olofson.

Wilson said he would direct his staff to come up with some language that would meet their needs.

Commissioners stressed the fact that HAM radio operators invest in their own equipment and do a great service in their work with OES.

Wilson went on to discuss the county’s two zoning districts in relationship to telecommunications. Rural 10 and 20 are the two county zones. Radio Hill is R10. The two zones are not that prolific in the county, he explained, showing a map detailing zones.

“The ordinance can be changed at any point before it’s adopted,” said Becky Herrin, assistant planning director.

A copy of the draft document should be available this week in the planning department office. It’s also available for review on the planning department’s link to the county’s web site, Herrin said.

Under regulations, the document must be available for public review for 30 days.

Within that time, the county will hold the first of two public meetings. This will be set for the planning department’s meeting room Oct. 18. And a second public meeting will be held before the Board of Supervisors, Herrin said.

Planning must also follow state regulations and send 15 copies of the document to the state clearinghouse where it will be given to special groups for review, she added.

Assistant planner Tim Evans presented the current telecommunications ordinance at the June 21 planning commission meeting. Deputy County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr has reviewed the document and examined case law concerning similar ordinances.

Coming up

Commissioner Larry Williams suggested that the group look at its list of upcoming planning concerns and re-evaluate it.

The county’s flood plain ordinance “might go quickly,” Wilson said,

Local rules on flood plain regulations are designed to help homeowners get flood insurance, he explained.

“Let’s throw that on the table, get it out of the way,” Greening suggested.

Wilson also suggested the Dark Sky ordinance for review. “It needs to be addressed.”

This ordinance is in regards to lighting districts within the county. Greening pointed out that some people seek Dark Sky zoned areas for health reasons. Lassen Peak is one of these areas.

Telecom ordinance concerns

Some Plumas County residents and some from outside the county are concerned about allowing new towers or higher towers on the Radio Hill site or anywhere in the county.

Josh Hart, representing a group concerned about telecommunications regulations in Plumas County and in Petaluma listed concerns.

Of particular concern are allowing 200-foot cell towers in residential neighbors; allowing Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennas on private property with no hearing; and requiring that cell towers in commercial districts be hidden by “stealth” techniques. It is claimed that these techniques can put painters, contractors and wireless workers in harm’s way by disguising the location of the cell towers and exceeding even loose FCC (Federal Communication Commission) limits on human exposure.

Assistant Planning Director Becky Herrin, after reviewing this list of concerns, said that the ordinance stands on its own. Members of the planning department, commissioners and legal counsel have gone through the ordinance and have been making necessary changes.

The draft ordinance will be available for review by the public at the planning department in Quincy and on the county of Plumas web site, Herrin explained.

The draft ordinance has not been considered for approval by the Board of Supervisors and can’t be considered until the public has been allowed its 30-day public review process. And there are still other regulations to consider before it is finished.

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