Seats Open on Planning Commission, PWAB

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

October 8, 2021

The City Hall shuffle continues in Morro Bay, with the City announcing it is taking applications for the planning commission after the City Council pegged a commissioner to move up to the varsity team.

Former Planning Commissioner Jen Ford was named Sept. 14 to replace the late Councilman Red Davis, who died July 24 while in office. With Ford’s elevation to the council, that opened up her seat on the planning commission and the City will take applications at City Hall (or online) until 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15. Ford was named to the commission this past February to fill the vacant seat of Jesse Barron who moved away and resigned.

The City is also looking for someone to fill a vacant seat on the Public Works Advisory Board.

The Planning Commission’s purpose, according to the City website is to:

  • Develop a general plan and recommend its adoption by the City Council;
  • Maintain the general plan after its adoption by the City Council;
  • Develop specific plans as may be necessary to implement the general plan; and,
  • Periodically review the capital improvement program of the City for recommendations to the City Council.

It should be noted that the City recently had its General Plan Update approved by the Coastal Commission, therefore work on those documents is over for a while.

The planning commission also serves as a first look at major development proposals, with authority to grant some discretionary permits, appealable to the City Council. It is also the first appeal body for citizens of an administrative permit issued by the community development director.

The commission rarely has final say on any matter, but rather reviews/critiques projects, suggests and asks for changes to conditional use permits, then votes on what are essentially recommendations to the council, either yea or nay.

Upcoming is one of the largest projects in town history — a proposal to build a 600 megawatt “Battery Energy Storage System” (BESS) on the old power plant property. It would be the largest such facility in the world and has already generated significant controversy amongst residents. It appears headed for an uphill fight with the planning commission one of the first battlegrounds.

There are five planning commissioners and all are appointed by a majority of the City Council. The commission meets the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. at the Vet’s Hall. All meetings are televised, however, since the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the commission has met entirely online via Zoom.

According to the City’s website, PWAB “was established to provide advisement and recommendations relative to services, functions, and operation of the Public Works division, the priorities of and future planning for public works, as well as to conduct such studies and other duties and functions as may be requested by various Advisory Boards and to report those findings.”

PWAB has also become one of two city boards that review developments with the Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) project, a duty that will end with the project’s completion in 2023.

The board meets the third Wednesday of the month except in July, November and December, which are scheduled breaks for the staff.

PWAB normally meets at 5:30 p.m. at the Vet’s Hall but due to the Coronavirus Pandemic has been meeting online. It’s unknown when PWAB or any of the other City boards and commissions will meet in person again.

For the planning commission and PWAB applicants must be residents of and registered to vote in Morro Bay during the entire term of appointment, according to the City Clerk’s Office.

If readers are interested in these positions applications are available on the City Clerk’s webpage, see: www.morrobayca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8320/Advisory-Board-Application-October-2020-Annual-Recruitment?bidId.

For more information on each board, see: www.morrobayca.gov/advisorybody and scroll down to “City Advisory Body Vacancies” and click on the position you are interested in.

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