City wants residents to help write its future

Look out! Susanville needs your help and expertise to envision a city theme on its Design Review Committee.

The city is reaching out to a wide applicant pool for impassioned and visionary residents to join in a community-wide discussion; one that tells them what theme represents the core values of the city as well as its priorities. The intent is to improve the overall look of the city. The city will advertise the need in the newspaper, soliciting letters of interest to sought-after individuals and will be appointing them at the council’s May 15 meeting.

The theme will be announced at this year’s Lassen County Fair and will become the basis to establish updated and unified design guidelines that would be the blueprint for existing and future development within the city. The wishes are to present Susanville as a healthy, vibrant community.

An essential part of the process will include bringing back the city’s Design Review Committee, which was established in the 1990s but unused for quite some time. The committee will comprise seven people with vacancies to be appointed by a majority vote of the city council.

However, Susanville’s municipal code does not specify who those seven persons might be. So staff sought direction from the council regarding the composition of the committee. The city’s program manager Quincy McCourt shared examples of options with the council, such as appointments from community groups or organizations and/or members of the general public who have interest, besides the appointment of members from the planning commission, staff members or the council itself.

The city’s municipal code states that the committee will meet the second Monday of each and every other month, or as needed at 4 p.m. at City Hall, and will meet as often as required should more frequent meetings appear necessary.

However, at its April 17 meeting, the council was torn between actually creating the committee and extending the responsibilities to its planning commission. In fact, the council almost temporarily scrapped the whole plan. Councilmember Brian Wilson and McCourt discussed if the committee would be making recommendations to the council and the planning commission. Wilson also wondered if the committee would be just another level of bureaucracy. McCourt mentioned that the extra step would be an avenue for engaging the community to share conceptual planning as well as a good vehicle for outreach.

In the code addressing the committee’s establishment of guidelines, it states that the council may, by resolution, adopt additional rules and regulations establishing guidelines for the committee and setting forth criteria and standards for mural design, painting, execution and location. The authority and responsibilities were also listed in the municipal code. With the approval of the council, the mayor would appoint the committee to evaluate, critique, consider and approve the design, painting and location of murals.

The council intends the committee also be given the responsibility as the review committee of the following matters covered elsewhere in the municipal code including but not limited to architectural review, landscaping, community character and signs.

The city’s new planner, Marlin Johnson, told the council he thought the ultimate goal, “Would be to have the committee, the public, make recommendations on whether the city should move from guidelines to requirements … whether it takes months or years to get there.”

McCourt said the purpose of the committee would be, “to keep us on track with following our theme. The planning commission (would look at) anything with a use permit … we wouldn’t actually present individual projects to the design committee … they would be coming up with what’s a realistic obtainable design that businesses can accomplish that would also help to mend our eclectic view.”