The Humboldt County Planning Fee voted unanimously final night time to ship the difficulty of native developer Travis Schneider’s permits again to employees in an effort to discover a path ahead that can be agreeable native tribes and the California Coastal Fee.
Whereas Schneider and Fee Chair Alan Bongio expressed deep frustration at a gathering two weeks earlier on the prospect of additional delay in transferring the venture ahead, Schneider really requested this delay and pushed again on Bongio’s makes an attempt to expedite the method. The obvious change of coronary heart — or a minimum of method — is probably going the results of Planning Director John Ford’s report in the course of the assembly that the California Coastal Fee, which may hear an enchantment of the Planning Fee’s resolution and even provoke the enchantment itself, was not on board with employees’s advice that the fee approve Schneider’s allow and allow modifications with a listing of mitigation measures that may clear the way in which for building to renew on his 8,000-square-foot household residence on Walker Level Street in Bayside. Ford mentioned he’d talked to Coastal Fee employees within the native workplace, the San Francisco workplace and “on up the meals chain.”
“The very definitive takeaway is that what’s being proposed doesn’t go almost far sufficient,” Ford mentioned. “They consider there must be restitution and fines imposed, and the circumstances have to be extra clearly articulated. … They’re very clear concerning the enforcement motion additionally needing to be part of the allow modification.”
The planning director additionally made clear that if the matter wound up earlier than Coastal Fee, all the constructing plan could be up for assessment. After indicating he was inclined to push ahead and let the playing cards fall the place they could, Bongio requested Schneider, who was in attendance, what he needed to do. Schneider responded he was reluctant to “rush,” needed this determined on the native stage and would really like an opportunity to work with the Coastal Fee to deal with its considerations.
Building of Schneider’s household residence halted in February, 50 days after the county issued a cease work order after discovering varied allow violations, together with that the house below building was on a distinct footprint than indicated on accepted constructing plans, violating setback necessities, and that he’d cleared protected environmentally delicate habitat and doubtlessly disturbed a culturally vital archeological web site recognized a century in the past as a former Wiyot village. He’d additionally lower a brief building entry street on the property with out a allow, and it got here to gentle this week he additionally didn’t get a septic system allow, which ought to have been in place earlier than building started.
Schneider then spent months working with the county and representatives from three Wiyot space tribes — the Wiyot Tribe, the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria and the Blue Lake Rancheria — to develop the restoration and mitigation plans essential for him to use for allow modifications that may raise the cease work order and permit building to renew. Schneider and county employees had been optimistic they’d reached an accord after an Aug. 2 assembly, however the Wiyot Tribe, the Blue Lake Rancheria and the Coastal Fee felt many particulars nonetheless wanted to be finalized and submitted remark letters opposing approval of the permits earlier than the fee’s Aug. 18 assembly.
Tensions shortly boiled over at that assembly, with Schneider stating in a letter that Ford agreed he may proceed building actions for weeks after the cease work order was issued (a notion the planning director strongly denies) earlier than intoning there was one thing nefarious concerning the “coordinated” remark letters and saying sure concerned events need to see “our home demolished.” His consultant then accused the Wiyot Tribe and Blue Lake Rancheria of getting lied concerning the Aug. 2 assembly, after which Bongio launched into one among a number of rants on the assembly by which he made far-reaching feedback about “Indians,” accusing them of making an attempt to extort extra concessions out of Schneider, enjoying a “recreation” with cultural sources and reneging on an settlement.
Tribal officers walked away deeply offended, with Wiyot Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez saying he’d misplaced religion within the Planning Fee.
Bongio — whose feedback had drawn criticism from not solely tribal leaders but additionally First District Supervisor Rex Bohn, who appointed him to the fee, and even Schneider himself — started the agenda merchandise with a short apology.
“I’m gonna take just a few seconds initially of this,” he started. “We’ve all seen — a few of you had been right here, a few of you examine it within the paper — I need to apologize to the tribes if I in any method offended them.”
The chair mentioned he reached out to representatives of the three concerned tribes and had a “superb dialogue” with the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (and fellow Planning Commissioner) Melanie McCavour.
“I reached out to the opposite two —Blue Lake and the Wiyot Tribe — 4 instances and by no means obtained a name again. So, I simply needed to place that out on the file,” he mentioned earlier than additionally apologizing that he didn’t acknowledge some folks within the digital viewers who tried to talk Aug. 18, saying he “by no means noticed any of these palms come up.”
Later within the assembly, different commissioners addressed Bongio’s conduct, as effectively.
Fifth District Supervisor Peggy O’Neill, who mentioned she labored for the Wiyot Tribe about 30 years in the past, famous that “of all of the tribes in northern California … there isn’t any tribe that’s been handled worse than the Wiyot folks.” She famous that when the Wiyot folks had been moved to reservations, everything of their ancestral land was taken and became what’s now Humboldt County. As such, O’Neill mentioned she was deeply offended when Bongio warned Aug. 18 that suspending a call on Schneider’s property attributable to considerations registered by Wiyot space tribes would set a precedent by which builders must “go earlier than the Indians” earlier than constructing something. Additional, she mentioned these are separate tribes, with distinct languages, cultures and histories, so calling them “Indians” is offensive, too.
She concluded her remarks providing her apologies for what she dubbed “a really darkish day in our historical past.”
Third District Commissioner Noah Levy mentioned he despatched letters to each the Wiyot Tribe and Blue Lake Rancheria apologizing on two fronts. First, he mentioned he personally apologized for having voiced frustration that the tribes didn’t have representatives on the Aug. 2 assembly, which proved to not be true, as a number of folks from the Wiyot Tribe attended just about. Regardless, although, he mentioned the tribes would have been “totally acceptable and inside the rights of the tribes, or any stakeholder, to submit feedback in writing solely.”
“So I apologize for making a problem of their absence,” he mentioned, earlier than turning to the second side of his apology. “I additionally wrote, although, to personally apologize for what I felt had been the appallingly disrespectful feedback of Chair Bongio towards the Wiyot Tribe and the blue Lake Rancheria at quite a few instances throughout that assembly.
“I used to be personally offended by the way in which he spoke about them and to them and by a tone of dangerous religion, I believed, towards them,” Levy continued. “I used to be upset not simply by the language … or his remedy of them specifically, however by the general biased dealing with of the matter that I felt contaminated that merchandise from the beginning. … It betrayed, I felt, our position that we have to attempt for to be a impartial and honest and unbiased physique when these stakeholders come earlier than us.”
Levy closed by saying to restore the harm, achieved, he wish to see the fee think about at its subsequent assembly drafting a “formal apology on behalf of the entire fee.”
Bongio mentioned he’d “be keen to be a part of that.”
Practically 10 folks addressed the fee throughout public remark, together with Schneider, who struck an upbeat, optimistic and pleasant tone early within the assembly. He thanked the fee for its time and county employees for being “diligent and responsive.”
He mentioned he was “hopeful and optimistic” concerning the progress made.
“A number of planning commissioners have indicated to me that they’ve personally and proactively reached out to the stakeholders and never obtained any unfavorable remark, which has additionally been my expertise,” he mentioned.
(It’s price noting right here that each the Wiyot Tribe and Blue Lake Rancheria appear to have withdrawn to some extent from the method after the Aug. 18 assembly. They didn’t reply to planning employees’s requests for a gathering or submit feedback on final night time’s agenda merchandise, and not one of the commissioners disclosed having spoken to their representatives. As such, county employees included recommendations from their prior letters into proposed mitigation measures.)
“I’m glad we discovered frequent floor with employees’s circumstances of approval,” Schneider continued. “I’m wanting ahead to transferring ahead … I’m pleased with the truth that once I put my youngsters to mattress this night we can have proven them how, by working collectively patiently, we will navigate an antagonistic scenario and are available to a considerate decision.”
A few commenters criticized Bongio’s feedback, with Ellen Taylor saying it could be a “shame” for the county to approve Schneider’s permits after the chair’s habits. However extra got here to talk in help of Schneider’s character, with Arcata Excessive Faculty trainer Troy Gazette saying he’s recognized him for 25 years and reporting he was a faculty chief, ASB president and an amazing scholar. Chris Lehman mentioned he’d recognized Schneider for 30 years.
“We grew up collectively, did 4H collectively, buried a good friend collectively,” he mentioned. “The person is all the time seeking to convey folks collectively, all the time making an attempt to do the correct factor for the group.”
The final commenter — Jennifer Savage (full disclosure, Savage is a contract contributor to the Journal) — mentioned she appreciated everybody’s public participation and curiosity in environmental points, however mentioned some commenters’ focus appeared off matter.
“I simply need to make clear, this isn’t a reference on what kind of group member Travis Schneider is, neither is it a problem with execs and cons on each side necessitating a philosophical compromise,” she mentioned. “This can be a scenario by which Travis Schneider broke the circumstances of his legally binding allow and he’s been delayed as a result of he didn’t comply with the foundations he agreed to initially, after which ignored the county’s makes an attempt to implement the legislation.”
The Coastal Fee Looms
When the Planning Fee dove into the choice at hand — whether or not to enhance Schneider’s allow and allow modifications — there appeared to be a consensus constructing. Employees, commissioners mentioned, appeared to have achieved effectively modifying the circumstances to include considerations registered by the Wiyot Tribe, the Blue Lake Rancheria and the Coastal Fee in prior letters.
The circumstances now made clear that tribal representatives must be consulted on detailed mitigation and restoration plans earlier than approval, and almost all circumstances specified they must be fulfilled previous to the county’s lifting its cease work order. A measure requiring a stretch of environmentally delicate habitat on the property be put below an easement was clarified to specify that Dishgamu Humboldt — the Wiyot tribal land belief — would maintain the easement.
Then Ford reported the Coastal Commissions considerations, which shortly took heart stage.
“I need to be clear on course of right here,” Ford mentioned, explaining that the venture is within the county’s jurisdiction however might be appealed to the Coastal Fee, both by a member of the general public or if two coastal commissioners determine to take it up. If that occurs, the Coastal Fee would have far reaching discretion and will revoke Schneider’s permits totally, or modify them. “That’s the stress that exists.”
Commissioner Brian Mitchell then requested what considerations the fee has that aren’t addressed by the mitigation measures at the moment proposed.
Along with the restitution difficulty talked about earlier, Ford mentioned, “They’re involved with the dimensions and mass of the home inside a scenic location and whether or not or not that matches inside the setting of the property.” The native coastal plan requires homes “match inside the setting,” Ford continued.
“Who will get to make that call?” Bongio requested. “That’s fairly subjective.”
It ought to have been thought of when constructing plans had been accepted in 2017, Ford mentioned. However he then shortly added that he believes one of many issues that “raises or heightens” the Coastal Fee’s concern is that the home’s footprint was moved from preliminary plans, constructed “out nearer to the sting of the slop, so it’s extra outstanding, extra seen, nearer to [sensitive] sources.”
Bongio mentioned Walker Level Street has quite a few homes “above common” dimension, saying all the pieces towards the top of the cul-de-sac, the place Schneider’s two-parcel property sits with expansive views of the sloughs and the bay, is within the 4,000- to six,000-square-foot vary, he mentioned.
“These tons had been developed to have these kinds of homes,” Bongio mentioned, calling them “executive-type” tons.
Ford replied flatly that if the venture is appealed to the Coastal Fee, “that can be a spotlight of dialogue.”
Mitchell then raised the opportunity of having employees take a look at the final six homes constructed on the street to give you common heights and sq. footage, which may very well be used to tweak Schneider’s constructing plans to make it extra consistent with the neighborhood. (It’s price noting once more that building of the home is effectively underway, with a lot of the construction’s framing up already.)
Bongio replied that “the practice left the station” when the home was permitted.
“The whole lot thus far that has been requested for, the applicant has readily supplied to present and do,” he mentioned. “With all of the mitigations which have been accepted and all the pieces, I feel we must always transfer ahead on this. … I’ve a tough time not transferring this alongside, OK? We gave the additional assembly. We’ve really added circumstances … and I feel it’s our job to maneuver this factor alongside. We will’t management what occurs past right here.”
Mitchell replied that the Coastal Fee letter previous to the Aug. 18 assembly “was very clear” in reminding the county it has “each authority to disclaim this allow.”
“If we hold heading down the trail we’re on, that’s the place we’re going to finish up,” he mentioned. “Sadly, consideration was introduced again to this venture by the nonconformance and, sadly, the tenor and the quantity of consideration the final assembly introduced up didn’t assist,” Mitchell mentioned, including he felt it was now as much as the Planning Fee to do all the pieces it may to have a venture that’s’ in conformance with the native coastal plan and, subsequently, unassailable by the Coastal Fee.
Levy then introduced up a priority raised by the Blue Lake Rancheria over Schneider’s growing this venture below an alternate-owner-builder allow, which is a kind of allow designed particularly for these personally constructing a home they’ll dwell in and have much less stringent oversight. If this had been a standard allow, Levy mentioned, there would have been extra oversight and inspections and “we in all probability wouldn’t have gotten to the purpose we’re at.”
“Do we’ve got the choice to alter the kind of allow that is below?” he requested Ford.
Ford responded that the alternate-owner-builder allow was supposed to assist folks construct in rural areas which might be tough to entry or who had been utilizing “alternate” constructing strategies, at which level Levy interjected that they had been additionally supposed to “promote inexpensive housing.”
“Right,” Ford responded with fun. “Let’s not neglect that.”
The planning director mentioned the fee may choose to alter Schneider’s allow, which Levy mentioned is likely to be “responsive” to considerations about his lack of compliance and the county’s lack of oversight.
Bongio mentioned altering the allow could be “taking place a very dangerous, slippery slope” and would set precedent. He then turned his consideration again to the home’s dimension and design, saying he’s been to the positioning “a number of instances” and might’t see how the home would “change something.”
“It’s not impacting something that I can see,” he mentioned, once more urgent the Planning Fee to determine the matter. “In my world, time is cash. … [Doing more research] is 2 extra weeks that this venture has been placed on maintain and is deteriorating, and we’ve received winter coming and we have to push this ahead so the decision might be made, and I feel we’re heading in the right direction.”
Ford reiterated that the Coastal Fee has considerations.
“One of many issues it’s a must to acknowledge is that as a result of the home has been relocated in violation of the allow … now all the home is topic to assessment,” he mentioned. “That’s simply the place it’s.”
Bongio then requested Ford if it could be acceptable to ask Schneider what he needed to do — referring to him as a “gentleman I’ve labored with over time and recognized” — and the director mentioned it could.
Schneider mentioned he acknowledges Ford’s considerations and was “reluctant to hurry one thing.”
“I do assume there are some points which might be unresolved,” he mentioned, including that he needed to see this accepted “on the native stage.”
With that, the fee voted unanimously to ship the matter again to employees, permitting it and Schneider two work with the California Coastal Fee towards a decision which may climate the state company’s assessment.
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