Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010
After several months with no response from San Mateo County Planning Department about the state of the Big Wave development project, new Planning Director Jim Eggemeyer paid Midcoast Community Council a visit.
The Big Wave project would erect office space and a wellness center for people with developmental disabilities on about 20 acres along Airport Street. The project was open for public comment for several months and the draft Environmental Impact Report received roughly 250 public comments. But MCC board members and some community members who spoke out at the meeting at Seton Medical Center Coastside in Moss Beach thought they have been ignored.
County planners are currently in the process of spinning the draft EIR into a final version but will, “not give any tentative date until we’re sure,” said Camille Leung from the Planning Department. “We aren’t in a place where we can (give an) estimate.”
Over the past five months, the Planning Department has been in a state of transition. In February Jim Eggemeyer began serving as acting director of planning until June when County Manager David Boesch appointed him to the position officially.
But the “triage” months left some Coastside community members distraught about the future of the Big Wave project.
One Moss Beach resident questioned how Coastsiders were supposed to be engaged in the decision-making process when they couldn’t see story poles to understand the scope of the project.
“You’re not getting back to this community,” said Bill Kehoe, who will soon be joining MCC. “If you don’t communicate to the people and projects go up that we don’t want, we’re going to feel like there’s money under the table there buying you off. There’s too much nonsense going on here behind closed doors. If we sent questions from the community council and you can’t respond in this day and age with e-mail, then we want to know why.”
Eggemeyer explained that funding cuts had forced the county to shift to cost-recovery mode. He explained that the county had been adjusting to reduced staffing and since September 2008 permit levels dropped off. “We’re looking at shifting resources within to help other sections within the department.”
MCC member David Vespremi called for more transparency in the Big Wave evaluation process. “If you can keep us apprised, then we can do our job to keep the community apprised, and if those change then obviously everyone understands that those changes will be communicated as well,” Vespremi said. “When people feel that they’re being kept in the dark, then that’s when you have some distrust and hostility around projects.”
Eggemeyer agreed that he would consider the project soon, and all parties agreed to continue the dialogue.