By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

The public hearing tonight on Del Norte County's 20-year General Plan is expected to be well attended, hotly debated and possibly continued to another date by the county Board of Supervisors.

Members of the public will not be able to comment on the plan during today's Board of Supervisors meeting, but will be able to comment at 7 p.m. tonight at the General Plan Hearing.

andquot;I anticipate the board will have some modifications to make and I suppose there will be some new comments. We're anticipating a large crowd,andquot; said Supervisor Martha McClure.

Major issues include policies to make smaller lots in Big Flat, a buffer zone between the Lake Earl Wildlife Area and development, and increasing the minimum acreage of agriculture-prime-zoned land from 40 acres to 80 acres.

McClure and much of the environmentally concerned community here do not want to keep a draft policy zoning Big Flat into five-acre sections. They said 40-acre homesteads are more sensible.

andquot;For the supervisors to be proposing five-acre parcels seems risky and unwise. There's no reliable road and no services out there. I think that kind of density is inappropriate,andquot; said local environmental activist Sandra Jerabek.

McClure's concerns about the change in policy toward Big Flat mirror Jerabek's.

The two said denser development would draw more water out of the Smith River and cause more sewage to pollute it.

Heated debate is expected at the hearing between two differing interest groups over Lake Earl policies.

Private property owners currently fighting to keep lake levels low say no buffer zone is necessary between the wetland and neighboring pastures and development.

Environmentalists advocate a 300-foot buffer zone to protect rare and threatened wildlife occupying the wetland.

According to Jerabek, the county initially included the 300-foot buffer in the draft plan at the request of the California Department of Fish and Game.

Officials in the county's planning department said they changed Lake Earl policies in the draft when they learned Fish and Game had no adopted management plan for the area.

Fish and Game is currently working to adopt a new management plan for the Lake Earl Wildlife Area and it is expected to be released next week.

Once that plan is adopted, Del Norte County will use it to form general policy for that area.

A fairly new debate will be raised by Smith River lily bulb farmers.

Eight different lily bulb farm companies signed a letter to the Board of Supervisors to block a new zoning policy.

Previously, a 40-acre lot qualified for agriculture-prime zoning. The new general plan proposes to double that minimum.

andquot;This proposal would, in effect, harm the lily industry without solving any identified problem,andquot; reads the letter from the growers.

McClure said she is also against raising the minimum and said she is not sure why the change happened in the first place.

According to McClure and others, the hearing will likely be continued to a future date to allow for more consideration of policies set in the draft.