This week's Town Dandy
Excerpt: ...Here, in a nutshell, is a summary of the situation. Currently, and for the last 30 years, someone who wanted to build a home on land zoned for timber production (“TPZ land”) required only a building permit. The proposed change would require that people who wish to build on TPZ secure, in addition, a much more onerous permit that would require, among other things, that the proposed home is “necessary for the management of the timberland” — i.e., for timber harvesting. On the face of it, that would seem to equal something close to “never.”
Looked at from one angle, the proposal is perfectly consistent with the changes the county is making to its general plan, which should be updated sometime next year. A major goal of the general plan is to confine population growth to already populated areas, so as to prevent sprawl and to preserve working timber and agricultural lands from development. There’s plenty of arguments to be made that rural subdivision has major impacts on wildlife and watersheds. Environmentalists and smart growth advocates have lined up solidly behind the proposed changes.
On the other hand, there’s no questioning the fact that any change would have immediate and devastating effects on some 1,700 separate owners of TPZ lands, who together own about one million acres of Humboldt County land. Eureka attorney Bill Barnum, whose family’s company owns about 30,000 acres of land, estimates that the changes will wipe away $1 billion in Humboldt County property values — about $150,000 per TPZ parcel. Whether those figures are strictly accurate or not, the very agitated folks who have organized themselves to oppose the change certainly have plenty to fear.
There’s no question that it’s within the county’s power to impose the changes. Several neighboring counties — Trinity, Del Norte, Shasta — have similar rules in place, and have had for some time. (Others, like Mendocino County, have rules similar to Humboldt County’s current ones.) It’s startling, though, how reaction to the Pacific Lumber proposal seems to have precipitated this headlong rush to change things as quickly as possible, without the possibility of thorough study or debate. The result, inevitably, will be very nasty politics and very expensive lawsuits...
Hanks asks Did it ever occur to (Bill Barnum) that he, Maxxam and Schectman were, by all appearances, on the same side of the TPZ issue?
Umm, I hafta disagree with that one, Hank - I don't think Bill Barnum is putting in 40 x 100 foot greenhouses to grow pot illegally. I could be wrong. If you mean that it's the argument that you should have the right to do whatever you want on your land - I still don't think you'd find that that is what Barnum is saying. Most everyone agrees that some rules are necessary, and good people tend to abide by them. Criminals don't. That's what should be being addressed, not denying someone - anyone - the right to sell their parcel or build a home on their parcel.