Supes Address Scope of Planning Commission

With dissent from one of its members, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors has approved notifying the Planning Commission that it needs to go through the board to agendize discussions on issues out of its purview.

The process for agendizing Planning Commission items is explained in a letter to commissioners approved at the June 14 supervisors meeting.

The letter stems from a previous board discuss late last month. The commission had discussed items, including consideration of a ban on medical marijuana manufacturing facilities, which led some people to believe supervisors had asked the commission for recommendations on them.

They hadn’t — and most supervisors wanted to clarify the process to avoid more misunderstandings.

Supervisor Estelle Fennell described the purpose of the letter as promoting cooperation. “We want communication, we want to improve clarity — we’re working as a team here,” she said.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said wording changes to the letter proposed by County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen “soften it up a little bit.” He supported the reworded version.

But Supervisor Rex Bohn still had doubts.

“I guess I’m not as warm and fuzzy, I don’t care how soft it is — I just want to make sure: Are we putting a halter on them?” he asked.

Responding to Bohn’s request for clarification, County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck said board approval of commission agenda items will only be required for “anything outside the standard realm of procedure.”

Fennell said she’s gotten “a number of phone calls” on the issue, with some of the input portraying the letter as a reprimand. “This is not a reprimand, it’s a clarification,” she continued, adding that the process spelled out in the letter gives leeway for communication.

“If there are issues that come to the attention of commissioners that really need to be addressed at the county level, I think it’s appropriate to have communication about that,” said Fennell.

The board’s letter states that state government code defines General Plan zoning and variances as the Planning Commission’s per view.

The commission can consider other matters as directed by the Board of Supervisors, the letter adds. Approval of proposed commission agenda items that fall outside of the primary functions must be approved by the board to “properly adhere to the government code and provide transparency to the public.”

Board Chair Mark Lovelace noted that the board has the authority to assist the commission by giving direction to staff.

“By doing this, we’re saying we’re endorsing an issue, we’re authorizing the expenditure of resources in terms of staff time to work on that issue — and that’s something that has to come from the board,” he said.

Bohn was the only supervisor to vote against approval of the letter. Supervisor Virginia Bass was absent.