Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – A long-debated plan that will allow interim commercial use of Humboldt Bay coastal-dependent industrial sites has received final approval.
The Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance on the Humboldt Bay permitting at its Oct. 3 meeting. The ordinance will allow properties with coastal industrial zoning to host other uses on a temporary basis.
Interim uses of sites will require conditional permits with public hearings and conformance with a variety of performance standards.
The idea is to make use of properties that have failed to draw coastal industrial takers, a situation that has led to lack of revenue for infrastructure upkeep.
The interim permits would span from two to 10 years, depending on site acreage and the types of uses.
Supervisors approved an initial version of the ordinance last year. This week’s action accepts the slightly modified version that was approved by the state Coastal Commission last August.
Supervisor Ryan Sundberg is on the Coastal Commission and he said the commission’s unanimous approval reflects the ordinance’s consideration of access and coastal use issues.
“One of the things they take really seriously is to make sure there is access to the coast and to make sure that things are not being built where access is being denied on any level for the long term,” he continued. “When this came to the Coastal Commission, that was one of the first things that they looked at – how is this going to affect long term uses of the bay and access.”
He added that “it was really shown that this action is not going to prevent future access issues and there are a lot of protections built in.”
The ordinance is supported by the county’s harbor district, which is recruiting businesses for use of the former Samoa pulp mill site.
Supervisor Mike Wilson, a former longtime member of the district’s board of commissioners, said the interim use plan will be productive.
“This does more than protect – it actually helps to create revenues that do the work of preserving infrastructure that actually gets us that access in the future,” he continued.
He added that roads, power, dock facilities and other infrastructure will “just go away and rot” if properties around the bay remain under-used.
During a public comment session, harbor district board chair Richard Marks discussed his agency’s acquisition and rehab of the pulp mill site, mitigating “an environmental threat to the bay.”
The district is working to “repurpose” the mill site and has upgraded it through federal tax credit funding.
That relates to a concern that some people have voiced about potential recruitment of marijuana businesses.
Marks said the federal funding ensures that “there is no possibility that we can do any type of cannabis functions out there.”
Supervisor Virginia Bass said the ordinance’s implementation opens “great opportunity,” particularly for the Samoa Peninsula.