Eureka flip-flopped on Forster-Gill project
An attorney for the Ridgewood Village development project, also known as Forster-Gill, aimed sharp criticism at the City of Eureka during Thursday night’s meeting of the Humboldt County Planning Commission.
John Belsher criticized the city’s mishandling of money that was meant to improve sewer and waste water systems. He said that although the city pledged to improve sewer infrastructure, it loaned over $5 million of dedicated funds to its redevelopment agency while necessary upgrades were ignored. As a result, Belsher said project developers will spend in the neighborhood of $3 million to build a collection system that will “skirt around the problems the city has refused to fix.”
Belsher said the project was once embraced by city manager Dave Tyson, who in 2006 called a now-controversial road expansion a “critical connection that will benefit both Forster-Gill and [neighboring] Lundbar Hills.”
At the August 3, 2010 City Council meeting, Tyson said the city had been virtually shut out of the project, but Belsher read from letters he had received from the city over the years praising aspects of the project.
“It is completely untrue that the city has been left out of discussions on this project” Belsher said.
Former city planner Kevin Hamblin was involved in many meetings about the Ridgewood Village and even had a map of the project on his wall, Belsher said. “But politics being what they are, we now have a 25-page letter of rejections.”
Belsher also said he presented a draft annexation plan to Tyson but the city declined to support it. “They said if you can go get annexed, we’ll talk to you,” Belsher said.
Mayoral candidate Frank Jager is talking annexation on the campaign trail. Perhaps Tyson neglected to tell him about the draft the city rejected.
Mayor Virginia Bass has made opposition to the project part of her campaign for Humboldt County supervisor, going so far as to invent non-existent aspects of the development to criticize — or to deflect voter jabs away from her favored Marina Center big box mall project.
Belsher’s best quote of the night followed discussion about the rash of development in Eureka’s unincorporated neighbor to the north.
Ridgewood Village “is the answer to McKinleyville,” Belsher said. “Instead of piecemealing out South Eureka, you Master Plan it.”
Ridgewood Village is a 386-acre project, but a solid 220-acres of the total area will be dedicated to forested greenbelts and open space.
The Planning Commission continued the hearing on Ridgewood Village to November 18.