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Sarah Christie guides county planning wisely 

It's no suprise Commissioner Christie is a target for Andy Caldwell and the vocal minority he represents, whose mission is to systematically exploit loopholes, weaken existing policies, and get around laws intended to protect public welfare and safety.

It’s no suprise Commissioner Christie is a target for Andy Caldwell and the vocal minority he represents, whose mission is to systematically exploit loopholes, weaken existing policies, and get around laws intended to protect public welfare and safety.

Andy Caldwell, a longtime voice for anti-government, right-wing extremism in Santa Barbara County, has expanded his reach into San Luis Obispo County and now demands the head of county planning Commissioner Chair Sarah Christie. Caldwell, representing the new SLO chapter of the Santa Maria–based Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB), writes “it would be in the best interest of the public and the staff of the county planning department that Sarah Christie be dismissed from the planning commission.” (Remove Sarah Christie from the planning commision, July 23).
 
We absolutely and wholeheartedly disagree.
 
Throughout her tenure on the planning commission, Christie has been smart, conscientious, and well informed.  She has shown an unwavering commitment to a fair and public process and has consistently argued for upholding the county’s General Plan principles and other applicable laws. This has occasionally put her at odds with applicants whose projects violate policies and laws she feels duty-bound to defend.
 
Thus, it comes as no surprise that Commissioner Christie is now a target for Caldwell and the vocal minority he represents. Their mission is to systematically exploit loopholes, weaken existing policies, and get around laws intended to protect public welfare and safety.  They have advocated for some of the worst examples of such abuses, including inappropriate subdivision on Santa Margarita Ranch and a rash of gravel mines in the Salinas River. Now they accuse her of bias, collusion, malfeasance, and worse—simply because she is working hard to apply our land use rules fairly and to protect the public interest. 
 
After four years as a member of the prior planning commission, Christie is now chair of the commission, a role she is well qualified for and well suited to.  And what a time it is to chair the commission. She has demonstrated remarkable skill in managing the potentially explosive hearings on the Los Osos sewer, conducting hearings with civility and grace. She has offered substantive and constructive suggestions that will result in a stronger and more inspired Conservation and Open Space Element. She and District 2 Commissioner Anne Wyatt together argued effectively and successfully against an attempt by special interests, including COLAB, to gut the essentials of the county’s Strategic Growth principles at the final hearing before the board of supervisors. 
 
As a senior member of the planning commission, Sarah represents everything the special interests hiding behind COLAB fear: a strong and reasonable voice that promotes the honest and equitable application of our county land-use policies and can articulate the vision that underlies them. Caldwell is now hurling the proverbial kitchen sink at her because he speaks for some whose personal agendas have been most directly exposed by Commissioner’s Christie’s tireless efforts to ensure that community welfare and public interest have a seat at the decision-making table once dominated by developers.  The voters made a decisive change in the make-up of the board of supervisors last year.  This commission and chair Christie represent that change. 
 
Caldwell asserts that simply because Commissioner Christie was or is an “activist” she denies applicants a fair hearing.  Where is the evidence for this?  Has she refused to give applicants equal time?  Has she prejudiced her fellow planning commissioners, ignored or misapplied the law, or acted unprofessionally? In a word: no. The grand jury report praised Sarah for her “… substantial prior knowledge of and significant involvement and experience in issues of land use planning … Such attributes are, in fact, desirable in any planning commissioner.” It also “did not find any evidence of possible criminal conduct,” nor any evidence of illegal or inappropriate behavior. The parties who lodged the complaint with the grand jury and demanded her indictment for fraud, malice, abuse, and civil conspiracy must have been disappointed by the findings.  Their plan backfired and their political vendetta failed.  How ironic that it served only to underscore the value of her expertise.
 
As community members with a stake in this county’s future, we call upon the board to continue to support the professional, equitable, and thoughtful work of this planning commission, including its chair.  We value the public service they provide to current and future residents of San Luis Obispo County.

Pat Veesart,
former D-3 Planning
Commissioner

Susan Harvey,
North County Watch

Jan Marx,
SLO City Council Member

Richard Kranzdorf,
Cal Poly Emeritus

George Luna,
former Atascadero Mayor

Doreen Liberto-Blanck,
former D-2 Planning Commissioner

Betty Winholtz
Morro Bay City Council Member

John Ashbaugh
SLO City Council Member

Mike Winn,
Nipomo CSD

Monica Hunter,
Planning and Conservation League Foundation

Rochelle Becker,
Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility

Denis Degher,
San Miguel Advisory Council

Fran Gibson,
Coastwalk California

Judy Vick

Greg McMillan,
Shandon Advisory Council

Rick Hawley,
Greenspace-The Cambria Land Trust

Lisen Bonnier

Dorothy Jennings,
former County Parks Commissioner
 
Pam Heatherington,
former Director of ECOSLO

Nancy Graves,
 SLO Co. Coordinator Coastwalk California

Jack McCurdy

Mary Webb,
Greenspace-The Cambria Land Trust

Cynthia Hawley,
 Landwatch

Ryan Rich,
President Certified Organic Farmers of SLO Co.

JoEllen Butler

Jeff Pienack,
San Luis Bay Chapter Surfrider Foundation

Mary Fullwood,
San Luis Bay Chapter Surfrider Foundation

Kathy Longacre

Joan Carter

John Beccia,
SMART

Drew Sweeney

Ron Skinner,
Huasna Valley Association

Robin Bell,
Carrizo Alliance for Responsible Energy

Elizabeth Rolf,
Co-chair Ag Tourism Coalition

Keith Wimer,
Los Osos Sustainability Group

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