In a hearing that included accusations, audience interruptions and cross-talking, county planning commissioners found that implementing the county’s updated General Plan won’t be easy.

At their Nov. 1 meeting, they reviewed the General Plan’s variety of rezonings along with a controversial “matrix” of landowner requests. The less controversial rezonings were recommended for approval, while others were recommended to be set aside for further community input.

The controversy is mostly in the Blue Lake/Glendale and Willow Creek areas. Residents said they’re blindsided by the changes and asked for more public notice and involvement.

A rezoning for the Mercer-Fraser Company’s 13.5 acre Glendale area site bordering the Mad River is one of the high-profile requests. The rezoning was included in the company’s proposal to operate a 5,000-square-foot cannabis manufacturing facility at the site.

Also included in the landowner request matrix are changes to properties owned by the Green Diamond Resource Company.

Speaking as a McKinleyville resident, Jen Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper said the company’s requested changes include a 400-acre property just east of McKinleyville that’s being considered for use as a community forest.

Changing the zoning to allow five-acre minimum parcels would have “a huge environmental impact that has not been addressed in the General Plan Update process,” she continued.

Many people asked for further public outreach. “What we desire is a forum either with this body or other bodies that will give us a chance to be heard,” said John Corbett, chair of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee.

Trinidad Councilmember Dwight Miller said there’s concern about zoning designations that could lead to over-use of Luffenholtz Creek, the city’s water source.

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Company states cannabis facility is still ‘off the table’


A Humboldt County Planning Commission meeting set for Thursday evening will address sweeping zoning changes across the county and is concerning some residents about potential changes, which could mean the revival of a cannabis manufacturing facility project at a Mercer-Fraser Co. site.

The 55-page document accompanying the agenda for the planning commission includes requests for zoning changes by the owners of 30 parcels across the county. Among those parcels are several owned by Mercer-Fraser, including a gravel quarry in the Glendale area, which was the site of a previously proposed cannabis facility.

For Mercer-Fraser’s part, the company’s CEO Justin Zabel said the zoning changes have nothing to do with the cannabis facility, which is a no-go at this point.

“That’s off the table,” Zabel said of plans for a cannabis manufacturing facility.

Nevertheless, groups including Humboldt Baykeeper and Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District are concerned about what rezoning for heavy industrial sites could mean for the Mad River.

A special meeting was called by the water district board on Wednesday afternoon, and the board voted to request the staff draft a letter outlining concerns.

“The board directed staff to prepare a letter to the county planning commission detailing how designating the properties in the Mad River watershed is inconsistent with other county policies and poses a threat to the Mad River water quality,” District General Manager John Friedenbach said.

He said he planned to deliver the letter to the planning commission on Thursday evening.

About 88,000 residents depend on the watershed for water, approximately two-thirds of Humboldt County residents, Friedenbach said.

The property would be rezoned to heavy industrial with a special designation that Humboldt Baykeeper Executive Director Jennifer Kalt said would allow for cannabis manufacturing.

“A heavy industry is the zone that they are changing it to. They claim they are putting a ‘Q’ on to restrict it to cannabis,” she said.

But her primary concern she said is that after the rezone, there could be no further environmental reviews of the parcel.

“The way this county operates,” she said, “when something is developed with industrial uses, they say ‘well, it’s already industrial. We can add this that and the other.'”

She also noted that the way the zoning request is introduced makes it somewhat inaccessible to most local residents.

“A really big question is why isn’t there more information that is easily accessible to the public,” she said. “You can scroll through all these pages and I have been following land use planning issue for years and it was somewhat incomprehensible to me what was being changed.”

 

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The Humboldt County Planning Commission is set to consider sweeping zoning changes at its meeting tomorrow for hundreds of thousands of acres of properties throughout the county.


The zoning text amendments and reclassifications are being proposed to implement the county’s general plan update, which the board passed last year. But they are coming before the planning commission tomorrow night along with 30 owner-requested zoning changes, including a couple from Mercer-Fraser Co. that some worry will re-open the door to a controversial proposal to build a cannabis manufacturing facility along the Mad River near where the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District pulls the area’s drinking water.


Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said she’s still reviewing the agenda packet for tomorrow’s meeting but indicated the owner-requested zoning changes are of primary concern to her, noting that they include about a dozen requests to rezone gravel queries throughout the county in a way that would accommodate cannabis manufacturing as well. 


And Kalt said it’s important to remember that this is essentially the last chance for public input and review for these projects, noting that once zoning changes are adopted some uses become principally permitted, meaning they are not subject to conditional use or environmental review processes. As an example, she pointed to the rezoning of a property on McKinleyville’s Murray Road that is now the future home of a Dollar General store, which despite some widespread neighborhood concerns is now principally permitted.


The primary concern of many looking at tomorrow night’s agenda is the Mercer-Fraser Co. property in Glendale. 


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The Humboldt County Planning Commission has approved plans for the continued operation of an asphalt plant less than a half-mile from iconic Big Lagoon despite objections that all the relevant data about the plant has not yet been received and over requests to postpone the decision until next month.

 

The plant has been operating for several months on an expired permit. 

 

With commissioners Alan Bongio and Brian Mitchell absent, and after a motion to postpone the vote failed, the permit passed with a 4-1 vote, with Noah Levy dissenting.

 

Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt thought it would be prudent to know just what chemicals might be contaminating the site, and in mid-August, asked the Planning Department for further information. She followed her initial queries with a California Public Records Act request and was promised her information by Sept. 24, four days after the commission was scheduled to act on the application. She asked the commission to postpone the hearing until after the requested information has been received. 

 

Kalt also noted that the project area is home to several endangered species including coho and Chinook salmon, and cutthroat trout. She was concerned about possible flood risks and what hazardous materials may exist on the site. 

 

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