Taylor denied planning commissioner position by supervisors

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — El Dorado County District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo’s mission to choose a candidate for his area’s vacant planning commissioner position has come to a standstill.

Turnboo chose Camino resident and building designer Sue Taylor as his next planning commissioner following the dismissal of Ceryl Bly-Chester but the vote to appoint her was divided with two “yes” votes from Turnboo and District 4 Supervisor Lori Parlin, two “no” votes from District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel and District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas and, in a surprising move, one abstention from Board Chair/District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl.

There was no question from supervisors at their Oct. 26 board meeting as to whether Taylor has the qualifications and the experience needed to perform the duties of a planning commissioner.

Taylor’s current work as a building designer is in the Bay Area where she regularly participates in zoom meetings with architectural and planning commissions. She also has an understanding of the El Dorado County General Plan, county zoning ordinances and specific plans and is a community and building advocate, working with residents to help them understand the planning process, according to her application for the position.

“Having worked with the county Building and Planning Departments for more than 20 years, I bring much knowledge, history and experience to help the county assist applicants to have a better and simpler experience through the planning process,” Taylor writes in her application.

Turnboo said she would represent his district well, especially with problems communities face following Caldor Fire devastation.

“Sue’s resume speaks for itself and her qualifications,” Turnboo said. “She’s very knowledgeable on all of these different items that come up in front of the board and that is one of the reasons why I picked her.”

All supervisors said they were in agreement that planning commissioner Bly-Chester’s removal could have been handled better and they did not want to have to remove another planning commissioner.

“This board has been rocked with chaos and controversy this year and it is imperative that does not continue,” District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas said.

Novasel, Thomas and Hidahl expressed their desire to appoint a commissioner who is respectful, can be impartial and fair in decision making.

Novasel admitted to being hypersensitive on the subject, stating that she would like to see the board appoint a planning commissioner who can conduct respectful discussion with other commissioners.

“I don’t see that with this candidate quite frankly,” Novasel said. “I’m very concerned that when and if there are issues, they won’t be addressed properly (and) we will be back to where we were.”

Thomas commented that Taylor has shown strong personal agendas in the past and that the position Taylor applied for needs someone who is open minded, has collaborative intent and can compromise when in disagreement.

“Her actions have shown that when a decision is made outside of her position on an issue, as we have heard, often Taylor’s fallback plan to go to litigation, not to look for common ground and compromise and then accept the decision and I find that problematic for a potential planning commissioner,” Thomas said.

Although no specifics were given, Taylor dispelled accusations of the lawsuits, stating she was simply a proponent of the lawsuits, including a 2014 lawsuit involving Citizens of Responsible Growth in El Dorado Hills and the Town Center Apartments, and past county lawsuits involving Measure E.

Many in public comment, some who are longtime acquaintances of Taylor, came to support her approval, highlighting her qualifications, knowledge of the county general plan, her involvement and volunteer work with the community and her desire to preserve local history.

However, a few shared the same sentiments as the “no” voting board members, expressing their own concerns about Taylor’s objectivity on viewpoints, potential contentious behavior and that she is not currently living in District 2.

“I do feel connected to District 2,” Taylor said. “I was under great distress when the Caldor Fire was occurring and I, behind the scenes, tried to do a lot of different things with connections to alleviate some of the things happening in that area.”

Hidahl brought the issue up early in the discussion and said he was surprised to learn from Turnboo that many of the applicants came from District 1.

Hidahl said he abstained his vote due to being accused of bias in the matter, calling it an honorable thing to do.

“I believe other board members should have done the same thing, but I’m going to set a standard, in my opinion, that should be honored by all board members,” Hidahl said. “If you have an implicit bias, you should not be voting on these sensitive matters.”

Since the agenda item did not pass at the meeting Taylor did not get appointed but the nature of the votes allows Turnboo to bring the discussion back to a future meeting if he chooses.

Taylor said she was frustrated with the outcome because the board did not specify why they denied her application.

“There (were) a lot of times they said things that were more vague and not specific to insinuate certain things about me where they had no examples or actual facts of something that I may or may not have done,” Taylor said.

Camino resident and longtime building designer Sue Taylor addresses the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors Tuesday in supervisors' chambers.
Eric Jaramishian/Mountain Democrat


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