There could be some nasty fireworks and controversy during the public portion of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 18, as the board considers the removal of a member of the Susanville Planning Commission.
Insiders suggest the commissioner involved is Carol Clark, appointed to the commission by District 2 Supervisor Gary Bridges.
According to Lassen County Code, the planning commission “shall consist of five members … One member is to be appointed by each members of the board of supervisors from electors of his or her supervisorial district. Each such member shall serve for a term of four years, unless sooner removed or the prior expiration of such term as provided in this section. Any member may be removed for sufficient cause, as determined by a four-fifths affirmative vote of the board of supervisors … “
Clark attended the supervisors’ Aug. 22 meeting and offered critical comments regarding the approval of a county ordinance (adding Chapter 1.35 to the Lassen County Code) that would “require indemnification agreements as a condition of approval for all discretionary projects, subject to appeal in accordance with county appeal procedures.”
According to the staff report, “Indemnification agreements are widely employed by local agencies in the state of California for a myriad of discretionary development permits.”
Clark said one of the sources cited by the county came from a 21-year-old opinion regarding a coastal community. Clark noted the requirements in coastal communities are much different than those in Lassen County. She also cited a 1989 court case (Topanga Association for a Scenic Community v. County of Los Angeles) in which the court opined an indemnity requirement could be attacked “on the grounds that it would allow the county ‘to transfer the cost of its administrative lapses, failures and omissions to’ the developer.'”
“I think that is exactly where we are going,’ Clark told the supervisors on Aug. 22. “If the county indemnifies itself, it takes a lot of the pressure off. They don’t need to be nearly as careful to be completely impartial. About half of our 50 states have laws prohibiting what’s called broad indemnity. California is one of them. California courts only recognize express and equitable indemnity — I don’t begin to understand that — but the indemnification in this ordinance seems extraordinarily broad to me. The people are already feeling powerless from the local level all the way up. I think that’s why we have such poor voter turnout. We don’t need more protections for the bureaucracy. We need more recourse for the people. As for the benefits to the taxpayer, I don’t believe any savings will ever be passed on to us, it will just disappear into the budget.”
Clark also provided Lassen News with a highlighted copy of information presented at the Aug. 15 supervisors meeting: “Although the California Government Code contains a specific provision allowing local agencies to require indemnification agreements as a condition of approval for subdivision projects, the Government Code is silent on the application of such agreements to other types of developments.”
During the discussion of this ordinance at two supervisors’ meetings, county staff has repeatedly said this ordinance only applies to projects in which the developer has obtained a discretionary variance for their project. It does not apply to projects of any other kind. Staff said the ordinance simply requires a developer — instead of the county — to defend a project in court if a variance was required from the county.
Clark also highlighted a portion of the county document that reads, the ordinance is “related to any decision, determination or permit made or issued by the director of the planning and building services department.”
She also expressed concerns regarding the ordinance’s relationship to the California Environmental Quality Act and the public notice process the county followed creating this ordinance.
Other agenda items
Other items on the agenda include a presentation by the Recognition Committee (Alicia Heard, 10 years and Cynthia Raschein, 25 years); retirement proclamations (Susan Bonham, 25 years and Karen Zappettini, 36 years); the information / consent calendar (CSAC AT HOME plan adoption; Aug. 22 minutes; Sept. 12 minutes; agreement with Environmental Alternatives; agreement for training with the University of California, Davis and correspondence); and department reports (planning commission member; and amendment to the Lassen Office of Emergency Services CalFire agreement).
The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday Sept. 26.