On the heels of announcing that all parties had agreed to settle the CEQA lawsuit pertaining to the Green Leaf Processors, Inc. project, the Colusa City Council received a comment letter from the county regarding the Golden Roots Development Agreement, which was up for the council’s consideration at last week’s meeting. It was ultimately approved 3-0 by the City Council, absent two members.
It was the second such comment letter from the county pertaining to the Golden Roots project. The first came during the Planning Commission hearing for Golden Roots in December. In those letters, the county expressed concerns over the lack of prior review by the Airport Land Use Commission, the CEQA categorical exemption cited by the city for the project, and the effects that a lack of adequate environmental review by the city would have on other permitting agencies.
Colusa County Community Development Director Greg Plucker, who drafted both comment letters, was on hand to present the county’s comments directly to the city council. Plucker first called attention to the last paragraph of his letter, which read: “It is the County staff’s strong desire to work with and maintain a positive working relationship with the City of Colusa. To that end, in November, County staff met with City staff in an effort to discuss how better to work together on upcoming projects to identify and address issues early in the project review process. An important part of the solution was for the County or City to notify the other early on in the processing of a project to allow ample time to work together before time constraints were put in place because the project was moving forward to the public hearing phase. Unfortunately, shortly after this meeting County staff was notified of this project two days before the Planning Commission meeting. As such, County staff was put in the position (of) having to express our concerns directly to the Planning Commission and now to the City Council. Notwithstanding this project, County staff continues to place great importance on maintaining a positive, proactive relationship with the City and we look forward to continue discussion with City staff on how best to achieve this objective in the future.”
Despite the fact that the county and city had agreed to mend fences and work together on projects before they reach the public hearing phase, Plucker said, that wasn’t possible in this case because the city moved the project forward too rapidly. As a result, he said, the county was forced to submit a formal comment letter during the public hearings at both the Planning Commission and City Council levels.
Members of the council placed the blame for the lack of communication at the feet of the county, and were not pleased with the timing of the comment letter.
Councilman Ponciano said that City staff had shown a willingness to sit down with the county to discuss future projects, and added that it was City Manager Jesse Cain who had organized the meeting between city and county staff in November.
“We’re all for public input, but my personal opinion is that we don’t want to mistake public input and sharing of information with the need for consent for the county,” Ponciano said.
Plucker responded that the county wasn’t asking for consent – rather, they were asking to develop a working relationship “where we can identify issues, try to find areas of common consensus… and then identify issues where there is not common consensus, so we can focus on discussion of (those) issues.”
Councilman Dave Markss told Plucker that upcoming projects shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, especially the county.
“They’re advertised in the paper. The County has a board liaison at the meetings and listens to the presentations by these organizations,” Markss said. “It’s not like these are at the last minute being placed on the agenda. So, for us to get this letter the day of the public meeting I think is – it puts me off a little bit.”
Still, both sides indicated that they were willing to work together on upcoming projects moving forward.
“The last issue, which was resolved in closed session (Jan. 16), I believe could have been taken care of with a cordial conversation between entities,” Ponciano said. “And it ended in a lawsuit, a tremendous loss of money by the city and the county, and a private business. To forgo those issues, I don’t think our staff would have any problems sitting down with the county and letting you guys know what we have planned or what we have going on.”
After the meeting, Markss said he was hopeful that the two entities had “turned a corner” and would be able to develop a healthy working relationship in the future.■