Harmony Headlands upgrade plan upsets North Coast neighbors

A proposal to spruce up the staging area at the state’s new Harmony Headlands State Park has run into some strong headwinds in the form of neighbors who don’t like the proposal.

Dennis Schneider and other neighbors have listed 15 reasons for not expanding the current dirt lot, “the most important (of which) appears to be access,” according to a staff report from Kerry Brown, a county planner. The lot is adjacent to an access road leading to neighboring properties.

Schneider is best known for his 7-year legal struggle with the California Coastal Commission over his plans to build a luxury home on the Harmony bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

That case gained national attention, putting to the test a Coastal Commission policy that said homes on undeveloped stretches of the coastline could be drastically scaled back to protect views of the shoreline for boaters and kayakers.

The commission approved plans in January 2008 for Schneider to build a home with amenities that is 30 percent smaller than originally proposed.

This time Schneider, joined by neighbors, is fighting the state Department of Parks and Recreation’s plans to add a 16-space parking lot, a kiosk, interpretive signs, a fee-collection tube, and new safety railings on a bridge just inside the park.

His fellow complainants are Sharon Harris, Sharyn Schrick, Denise Emmick McLaughlan, and Sandra Emmick Bowman.

The planning staff has said it will put up a sign telling park visitors not to block neighbors’ driveways.

Neighbors also have raised environmental concerns, warned that the parking area and signs will be visible from Highway 1, and said the project would “have a significant effect on adjacent agricultural lands.”

The 784-acre park, just south of Harmony on Highway 1, opened in late 2008 and has become a popular venue. It features a hiking trail to the coast and a bluff-top trail.

A Planning and Building Department hearing officer approved the new parking area in December, and Schneider and his neighbors have appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors. They will discuss the question on Tuesday.