Tuesday, 16 August 2022

CLMSD golf course consultant proposes General Plan changes

 

Late last year the city entered into negotiations with Boeger Land Development, which is creating a proposal for a development on the CLMSD site.


A committee appointed to negotiate an agreement between the city and the developer has suggested altering proposed General Plan language relating to CLMSD in order to help the project move forward.


The language change would replace the term “specific plan” with the term “master plan” when referring to CLMSD, which would require fewer specifics in how the land would be utilized, and also could mean less of a community voice in the overall process, says one city official.


At the Lakeport City Council's Feb. 6, meeting, Richard Knoll, the city's community development director and acting city manager, reported the language change request to the council.


Knoll reported that consultant Dale Neiman, recently named Clearlake's new city administrator, is requesting the language change at the direction of the CLMSD golf course project committee.


That committee includes Jim Burns, a partner in Boeger Land Development, Mayor Roy Parmentier and Councilman Buzz Bruns, along with Neiman.


Among the specific changes Neiman is requesting is a modification in the General Plan's language as it references the 700-acre CLMSD property. Currently, the General Plan allows for up to 1,200 residential units at build out on the property, said Knoll.


Neiman said in an interview this week that he suggested the language change in an effort to save time and money for both the city and the developer.


He said by removing one step – the specific plan – the process would achieve the same results, but would cost less and involve less staff time.


“I felt that all the issues that need to be dealt with, you could do it through the EIR and project review process,” he said.


An important step in the normal planning process, the environmental impact report (EIR), is meant to look at different development options for specific land, Neiman said. He said it could look specifically at traffic, slope stability, housing distribution, vegetation removal and noise, among other important development issues.


Since the first draft General Plan was printed in June 2005, and subsequently updated in January 2006, CLMSD has been referred to as a “specific plan area.”


The state's Office of Planning and Research's (OPR) General Plan Guidelines explains that a specific plan is a tool for establishing zoning regulations tailored to a specific site that are consistent with the general plan.


Specific plans must specify, in detail, land uses within the specified area; locations of infrastructure (transportation, sewage, water, drainage, energy, solid waste disposal, etc.); standards and criteria for development; and financing to cover development.


The guidelines note that specific plans can reduce development costs by eliminating uncertainties about how land can be used.


The plans can also have disadvantages, the state guidelines say, because they require staff resources and expense, and require significant amounts of detailed data. Outside consultants often are necessary to help in the process, the guidelines note.


Another OPR publication, The Planner's Guide to Specific Plans, states: “The specific plan process must provide opportunities for the general public, as well as residents located within planning areas, to assist in the planning of their particular communities. Public involvement helps define the community’s vision of future growth and development.”


That guide explains that specific plans can be applied to areas as small as an acre or as large as thousands of acres. Specific plans, it notes, are subject to voter referenda and initiatives.


In an interview late last week, Knoll explained the specific plan process as “a very well-defined land use planning process, with very specific components included in the state law definition.”


If the CLMSD went from a specific plan area to a master plan area, said Knoll, there would still be public involvement, but it would change.


“My interpretation is that it would be a reduced or less of a public process in the sense that a specific plan is really intended to be completed and managed by the city,” he said.


Specific plans, he said, are managed by the city but often paid for by developers.


At the Feb. 6 meeting, Knoll told the council that any changes to General Plan language must, by state law, be referred first to the city's planning commission.


Parmentier told Knoll he wanted it placed on the Planning Commission's next agenda. Knoll said that the commission's next meeting was already set – they'll meet this Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall – and that it would have to be placed on the commission's March 14 agenda.


One woman in the audience asked if a public hearing had been held on the project yet. Bruns said no, but that there would be one.


The change in language raises concerns about public participation relating to the CLMSD golf course project, which has generated increasing controversy.


Some of that controversy has arisen from Parmentier's admitted friendship with Burns, one of the proposed developers, which until recently had not been disclosed publicly.


At the council's Jan. 9 meeting, after being asked directly about the matter, Parmentier admitted that he and Burns were “fishing buddies,” and that he has taken fishing trips on Burns' ocean-going fishing boat in Fort Bragg.


If those trips were ruled as gifts, a potential conflict of interest issue could arise under the state's Fair Political Practices Commission guidelines.


Thus far, the city has not required Parmentier to recuse himself from working on the CLMSD golf course project committee, in which he is involved with negotiating with Burns over the proposed development on city land.


In addition, the city is now under a sewer hookup ban from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. That resulted from an incident last April in which between 3 and 6 million gallons of treated wastewater ran off the city's CLMSD site and eventually reached Clear Lake.


As the city's planning director, Knoll said he has specific reservations about the proposal to change the specific plan language.


“The concern, frankly, that I have about this is that we've never analyzed the city's CLMSD property in a meaningful way in terms of a general plan or a public planning process,” he said. “The only thing that we've done to date is develop a paragraph of language that is currently included in the draft general plan.”


It's that paragraph that Neiman's recommendation would change, according to the staff report from the Feb. 6 meeting.


“The point of that policy is to require a much more intensive public process to look at what is really appropriate for this piece of property in terms of land use planning,” Knoll said.


That public process, in Knoll's interpretation, would be eliminated. He said the committee's argument is that they can achieve the same end result with a different process.


Knoll said it's also a matter of the city's responsibility to plan for its future, and not leave it up to a developer to do so.


“This is publicly owned land,” he said. “This is being proposed to be part of the city. Cities have a responsibility to plan for their future. This is what we should do.”


He added that the specific area planning process is “a public review process, versus a developer paying independent consultants and managing their consultants to prepare plans and subdivision maps and bringing that to the city and saying, 'Here, this is what we want to do.'”


The end result, he said, should be clarity for what a future property owner can do with the land.


The EIR in the city's current general plan has looked at the property already, Neiman said.


Neiman emphasized there would be no change in the amount of public input allowed in planning for the CLMSD property as a result of the language change.


“Through that (EIR) process there would be plenty of opportunity for public comment,” he said.


In reaction to Knoll's concerns about less public involvement, Neiman said, “I guess Richard and I have a different opinion.”


The city council gave a 45-day extension to Boeger Land Development so the company could finish its project proposal. Neiman said. The extension, he added, was necessary to complete the conceptual sewer study, which was based on city numbers that Neiman said were not accurate.


When the language change recommendation goes to the planning commission March 14, Knoll said they'll have the opportunity to consider the recommended language change and then make a recommendation back to the council.


The council, he said, can then decide how they want to proceed. “It's ultimately a City Council decision,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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