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The large crowd inside supervisors’ chambers erupted in cheers and applause this afternoon after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a major development project for the Southern Humboldt Community Park.
A stream of 30 public speakers had taken turns at the lectern addressing the board, with the majority expressing strong support for the park development project. The board agreed to certify the project’s environmental impact report and allow zoning and land use changes that will clear the way for an ambitious set of improvements to the park including festival event stages, a dog park, a skatepark and a sports complex with baseball diamonds and a football/soccer field.
The board also approved a program that will allow the nonprofit group managing the park to sell development rights for as many as 54 units to other regional property owners, thereby generating revenue to help manage the park property. The county planning commission had recommended against approval of the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program, arguing that the plan was too speculative.
But Supervisor Estelle Fennell, whose Second District encompasses the park, offered unconditional praise for the “wonderful project,” calling the park plans “visionary.” Fennell also called it a “historic day,” one that brought the fruition of roughly 17 years of efforts from park organizers.
During the staff report, senior county planner Michael Richardson outlined the many proposed uses for the park, including the continued operation of a gravel mining outfit and farming such as hay production. The proposed ball parks would satisfy an unmet community need for more recreation facilities, Richardson said, a sentiment echoed by many of the public speakers.
But not all speakers supported the project. Several expressed concerns about plans to hold large events with up to 5,000 people per day on the premises. They suggested the Benbow Lake State Recreation Area as a better site for such events.
Jenny Short, speaking on behalf of the Garberville Sanitary District, said her agency supports the project but has concerns about the park’s water supply and wastewater disposal. She noted that the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water called for an entirely new water system to supply irrigation to the park. “We’re totally opposed to setting that up,” Short said. However, she added that the local agency is willing to do what it can to move the project forward.
Redway resident Linda Sutton said many community members would support a smaller park, but this plan would have “enormous impacts on local habitat.”
Kristin Vogel of Garberville brought up a thick white binder and announced that it contained more than 600 petitions signed by people who don’t want to hear any amplified music events at the park. “We’re asking for peace and quiet in our neighborhoods,” she said, something that would be ruined by “thumping bass lines.”
First District Supervisor Rex Bohn later noted that there would be, at most, seven such events per year, representing a tiny fraction of park activities.
But most people voiced strong support for the park project, listing a wide array of expected benefits including much-needed recreational space, an economic boost to the region, promotion of youth wellness and an investment in the social fabric of the community.
The board ultimately agreed, approving the project after a brief discussion. The matter will come back to the board at its April 25 meeting for final approval and certification of the environmental impact report.