Saturday, 12 June 2021

Brandon: Commission chair lacks collegial attitude

By and large May 14 was a pretty good day at the Planning Commission. The discussion was cogent, the commissioners made the right decision on all three items before them, and they did so unanimously.

First up came an application from a cell phone company that is trying to extend their service area into Lake County, but that unlike some other recent applicants was not attempting to straddle a scenic vista with yet another glaring eyesore. Instead, they followed suggested guidelines and found enough colocation sites to meet their needs. Staff recommended approval, and the commission agreed.

The last, and most extended, item on the agenda was the Avalon Springs project, an innovative proposal to renovate and expand the historic but derelict Howard Hot Springs property southwest of Lower Lake in a manner that will preserve and enhance the unique advantages of a remarkable site, while creating a sustainable, ecologically sensitive facility that will be a magnet for visitors and a model for resort developments elsewhere in the county. The commission approved that one too.

In between came a far more problematic proposal, that would have added to the unsightly billboard array south of Lakeport. For reasons that are not immediately obvious, the Community Development Department backed this application as well, even though the site is plainly visible from the nearby Highway 29 vista point and does not satisfy location requirements adopted just a few months ago. The commissioners very wisely turned the application down.

Unfortunately a most dismaying episode marred what would have otherwise been a very encouraging meeting.

This disruption occurred when Commissioner Clelia Baur attempted to expand the billboard discussion into general principles governing outdoor advertising, and was dismissively interrupted by Chair Gary Briggs.

Asserting that the subject had been discussed at length several years previously (before Commissioner Baur's appointment), he cut her off then and there.

How can the public be expected to respect the commission, when its members fail to maintain even a minimal standard of collegial courtesy in their dealings with each other?

Victoria Brandon is chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group.

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