Seven Potrero Planners Served with Recall Notices
East County Californian (2007-05-17) Miriam Raftery
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By Miriam Raftery
The East County Californian
May 17, 2007
A coalition of concerned citizens launched a movement to recall all but one member of the nine-person Potrero Planning Group.
“Our standing rules say that this board has to respect the rules and views of the community,” said Carl Meyer, a farmer who served members with recall notices at a planning group meeting Thursday.
All planners, with the exception of Emil Susu whose seat is considered vacant, who voted in favor of Blackwater USA’s proposal to build a military-style training facility in Potrero on ranch land surrounded by national forest and Hauser wilderness areas now face the prospect of a recall election.
Susu was declared ineligible to serve after residents learned he was not registered to vote in California. He has since registered here and the planning group renominated him at Thursday’s meeting. The County Board of Supervisors must reconfirm his appointment.
Jan Hedlun, the lone planner opposed to the Blackwater project, was also spared from the recall movement.
A minimum of 10 signatures was required to serve the recall notices on each planner. Planners have one week to respond to the reasons stated for the recall. Next, recall supporters have 10 days to prepare petitions and 40 days to obtain signatures from 30 percent of the 435 registered voters in Potrero.
Since more than a third of the town’s registered voters have already signed petitions opposing the Blackwater project, recall supporters believe they will succeed in forcing a recall election. By law, any recall election must be held between 88 and 125 days after signatures are turned in and validated.
Asked if he believes the election would be held in time for a new planning board to be seated and rescind its advisory vote on Blackwater before the County Planning Commission takes its vote, Meyer replied, “Yes, I think so.”
Earlier in the meeting, Potrero resident Barbara Chamberlain presented a separate petition asking planners to revote and oppose the Blackwater project.
Chair Gordon Hammers agreed to entertain a motion to reconsider the vote. Hedlun moved for reconsideration and Jerry Johnson seconded the motion, which passed 8-0.
Reconsideration of the vote will be held at the next PPG meeting on July 12. Duncan Mc Phetridge
of Save Our Forests and Ranchlands will also address planners at the July 12 meeting.
Planners Jerry and Mary Johnson accompanied Hammers on a trip to Moyock, North Carolina, where they visited Blackwater’s headquarters. All three praised Blackwater’s positive impacts on Moyock and Camden County and insisted that concerns about noise and traffic are exaggerated. Johnson noted that a speed limit sign posted at Moyock warns drivers that anyone caught speeding twice will be barred from driving on Blackwater property in the future.
A handful of residents clapped and cheered in favor of Blackwater. The majority of the standing-room-only crowd, however, applauded for speakers opposing the project.
Hammers took comments from citizens concerned about impacts of Blackwater on wildlife, water, and community character as well as noise, fire safety and traffic concerns.
“Can you explain to the group why Potrero needs Blackwater?” one resident asked.
“No, I cannot,” Hammers replied.
But Potrero resident Andy Lindsay said he views Blackwater as the “lesser of two evils.” He fears that if Blackwater’s permit is denied, the property will be converted into “a bunch of ranchettes like Campo” or “a dump, who knows?” Hammers allowed Zoe Rossell to address the group. Rossell filed a lawsuit against Hammers, Potrero and County planners as well as the Board of Supervisors alleging that Hammers violated the Brown Act by refusing to allow her to speak anonymously at a prior meeting. Hammers said the issue is a “gray area” that he wants to see a judge ultimately decide.
Reactions of planners facing recall ranged from defiant to dismay.
“I don’t mind being served,” said Hammers, noting that he has survived having his house burn down and in December, the death of his wife.
“If you can recall me, go ahead,” he said, but expressed doubt that recall advocates could obtain enough votes to succeed.
Jerry Johnson’s voice trembled as he discussed prospects of being recalled in an interview after the meeting.
“I’ve been here, helping this community for over 35 years,” he said. “I got this building built for Potrero. I got this road paved . . . I was on the road commission for the County and worked for a block grant. Now, I’m almost ready to quit.”