Mt. Shasta General Plan 2045: city council asked to slow process, consider more public input

Kelsey Shelton
Mount Shasta Herald
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In a 4-1 decision Monday evening, Mount Shasta city councilors voted to continue with the General Plan 2045 process, with Tim Stearns – who has been airing concerns about the proposed plan for weeks – casting the sole "no" vote. 

The update of the city's general plan is a blazing hot topic, with people concerned that changes proposed in the draft are too sweeping for a city of Mount Shasta's size and character.

"I have been going through public comment from both meetings, and my concern is that we've got the cart way in front of the horse," said City Attorney John Kenny. During the meeting, which had been continued from last week due to Zoom's cap on meeting participants, Kenny took a moment to remind the council that the plan is not set in stone and that its ultimately a project of the city's planning commission.

"Yes, you can start all over again, but the point is that this needs to go through planning commission and still come to council. If council wants to predetermine what it will be, it can do that, but it is not the role of the council to give direction, but to consider recommendations," said Kenny.

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After the council's direction to continue working on the plan, staff will have additional time to gather more public input on the aspects of the project that are troublesome for residents so they can take their considerations into account when planning the next draft.

"We've done the visioning in 2018, public outreach portions in 2019 and 2020, and we stopped in March 2020 due to COVID, because people were at home and were concerned about other aspects of their lives," said Lucchesi during her report. Public input efforts were started again in November of 2020. She then asked councilors for formal direction on the process.

Lucchesi said in order to meet grant deadlines, a first draft of the plan is due to be submitted sometime in June of this year with hopes of jumpstarting CEQA and the Environmental Impact Report necessary for the plan.

"We are required to update our housing element every seven years," said Lucchesi. "It expires this year and we have permission from the state to extend if we start the EIR process."

Council members and the public asked why the city couldn't just update the housing element alone. Lucchesi, said this would "trigger updates for other elements," such as environmental and land mandates, and the general plan would then need to be updated, regardless.

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Councilors John Stackfleth and Jeffery Collings expressed concern regarding how the new waves of public comment will fit in to the changes to the draft by the June deadline. Lucchesi assured them that there are "different options" regarding the process moving forward. "We can fast track other elements of the plan that don't rely on land use," said Lucchesi. 

Currently, the city is part of a transportation study that is slated to end in 2022, as well as a noise study which is halfway completed. These will both be included as part of the draft once completed, regardless of the June deadline.

Residents were not afraid to speak out both for and against the proposed ideas in the general plan, but a majority urged councilors to slow down and consider a more involved public input process.

While the need for more affordable housing in the city was something public speakers agreed was a problem, proposed zoning, land use and neighborhood changes were the main concern for residents, both in the city's "sphere of influence" and in the neighborhoods where changes have been proposed.

"Over here in the 'sphere of influence,' we knew nothing about this plan," said Mark Oliver, who said people who live outside of the city need more time to provide input.

"I am here to say stop and pause," said resident Teresa Hart-Chiodo. "I would like it stopped – there are other options." She went on to note that a more inclusive public process could be used to formulate a new plan, claiming large portions of the pubic were not able to comment. 

Mount Shasta City Councilor Tim Stearns

"I encourage you to vote yes," said Mount Shasta resident Barbara Wagner, who previously served on the city council. "The work that we have done so far is posted on the city website, the vision is a good one for our community and when I hear citizens speak, I am not hearing that they have actually been reading it ... It is an excellent plan."

Wagner noted that there will be time over the next few months for additional public comment and changes.

The Planning Commission will host its regular monthly meeting tonight, April 20 at 6 p.m via Zoom.

During this meeting, the General Plan 2045 will be presented. The Land Use Element, which is now on its second draft, will also be presented to commissioners to review proposed changes. The first draft was approved March 16.

Censure of Council member Stearns

Council member Tessa Montgomery asked staff to place an item on the agenda to possibly censure Stearns for allegedly bullying city staff.

"While uncomfortable in recognizing these, being ignored time and time again ... we ask to censure Stearns," Montgomery said, referring to herself and Mayor John Redmond, who seconded placing the potential censure on the agenda.

Stearns asked that the item be continued to the next meeting on April 26 so he could be given the opportunity to submit documents and provide a written response to the claims. He said three minutes would not be adequate to clarify.

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City Attorney John Kenny agreed that continuing the agenda item would be appropriate, given the circumstances.

Councilors voted 4-1 to continue the item to the next agenda, with Redmond casting the "no" vote.