County planning department recommends that Big Wave help complete its own environmental evaluation

At a county Planning Commission hearing today Jim Eggemeyer, interim director of the County Planning Department, advocated that his office “collaberate” with an unnamed third party–identified elsewhere in the hearing as Scott Holmes, a member of the leadership team of Big Wave–in order to respond to the many public comments received concerning the Big Wave development proposal.

Big Wave [see video, “What is Big Wave?] is a 300,000 square foot office complex/sanitarium sited on a pair of parcels behind the Half Moon Bay Airport. Due to its controversial nature the project received almost two hundred and fifty comments from the public, far more than normal. Many of the comments were detailed and highly researched.

At the hearing Eggemeyer said that the contractor selected by the county to perform the required environmental impact assessment (called an “EIR”) was now refusing to complete the work since the number of comments–all of which must be responded to–greatly exceeded expectations.

Big Wave has declined to pay additional money to have the work done.

Eggemeyer outlined three options to the Planning Commission

First, the county could sue the consultant, Christopher Josephs and Associates, to force it to complete the work without additional payment.

Eggemeyer said that since the consultant knew that Big Wave was a controversial project they therefore should have expected–and budgeted for–a large number of responses.

The second option would be to simply say that there was no final EIR.

The third option would have Eggemeyer’s office collaborate with a third party to find the answers to the public’s questions. Although Eggemeyer did not specifically name Big Wave itself as that “third party,” during the public comment period of the hearing the “third party” was identified as Scott Holmes. Eggemeyer did not dispute that assertion.

Holmes sits on the Board of Directors of the Big Wave Project and, serving as its Project Engineer, was deeply involved in the development of the Big Wave proposal.

David Byers, an attorney for McCracken, Byers, and Richardson, the law firm representing Big Wave, defended this unusual arrangement where a project applicant helps prepare its own environmental review. In an e-mail made available to Montara Fog he writes that under California law “…the EIR can be prepared completely by a project applicant and this is done so in other agencies. In any event the EIR has been prepared by an outside consultant as the applicant has spent  $365,000 so far on its preparation.”

The county will make the decision on which option to pursue. The Planning Commission will evaluate the resulting EIR, if any.

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