Kevin Caldwell Letter to Editors -TPZ Issues
P.O. Box 614
Miranda, CA. 95553
Letter to the Editor:
Once again the Board was provided more misinformation regarding residences on TPZ land. Staff has told the Board that the County TPZ regulations are not consistent with State law, that houses are not compatible uses on TPZ lands and that TPZ land owners with homes receive an unfair tax advantage. Because of this misinformation, staff convinced the Board to bifurcate the General Plan Update process, schedule another public hearing without adequate public notice and direct staff to prepare an ordinance to require Conditional Use Permits (CUP’s) for residences on TPZ lands.
Staff told the Board that the County TPZ regulations are not consistent with State law. This is not true. Any use that does not significantly detract from the use of the property for, or inhibit, growing and harvesting of timber is defined as a compatible use. State Law (§5t 104 (n) (6) C.G.C.) actually states that .."residences or other structures necessary for the management of the land…” are considered compatible uses. It does not say “residences necessary for the management…” of the lands. It is critical that this provision is read and interpreted correctly.
Furthermore, State Law required that each County determine which compatible uses would be allowed, provided they do not significantly detract from the use of the property, or inhibit, growing and harvesting of timber. In Humboldt County and most every other County in the State, residences were and are considered compatible uses on TPZ lands. In fact, a County publication that was provided to most, if not all timberland owners entitled the “ABC’s of TPZ” clearly states that residences are considered a compatible, principally permitted use. To help ensure compatibility, the County TPZ regulations limit residences and associated uses to two acres per parcel. State law actually allows up to three acres per parcel.
In 1989 and then again in 1998 the Board reaffirmed the compatibility of residential uses on TPZ lands and approved provisions for allowing second residential dwelling units on TPZ parcels 40 acres or greater. What did Staff tell the Board then?
Staff also told the Board that by allowing houses on TPZ land, those owners are receiving an unfair tax advantage. This is not true. I provided the Board information from the Board of Equalization regarding compatible uses, houses on TPZ land and the tax rules that apply. Bottom line is that there is no unfair tax advantage. Once again staff misled the Board.
Conditional Use Permits cost about $2500 to $3000 in application fees and take about 6 months to process. In addition, Fish and Game will require an $1800 impact fee. This one action alone will add about $5000 to the construction costs of a new home, not to mention the additional time. This certainly doesn’t help housing affordability. Furthermore, the Planning Department is up to its neck with applications, any increase in workload will certainly affect the processing of other projects.
I can only assume the motivation behind the TPZ moratorium and the recommended CUP for houses is due to the PALCO uncertainty. However, over the past five years, staff has been telling the public, the Planning Commission, the County Forestry Review Committee and the Board of Supervisors, that timberland conversion and development on TPZ parcels is out of control. Not true. According to Supervisors Geist, less than 20 Building Permits have been issued on TPZ lands over the past 20 years.
It’s apparent that the Board wants some sort of discretionary review of any homes proposed on PALCO lands. They actually have that power and apparently staff has not told them. Although the Planning Department does not do it, County regulations require that a Zoning Clearance Certificate be issued prior to the issuance of any Building Permit. This is the hammer the Board should be using.
The Zoning Clearance Certificate requires that the County determine among other things that the parcel is a separate legal parcel. The Certificate of Compliance process is not subject to the Permit Streamlining Act. Therefore, the County can and does drag-out the process for years. In addition, single-family development on an existing lot is not always exempt from CEQA. Where an agency (City/County) believes that the project could have an adverse impact on the environment, Statutory and Categorical Exemptions do not apply. The Courts recently reaffirmed this in SPAWN vs. County of Marin.
In addition to affecting private property rights and values of almost 1000,000 acres, the Boards action on Tuesday essentially predetermined the timberland policies and undermined and circumvented the public participation process (which has been very disappointing) of the General Plan Update, not to mention the role of the County’s Forestry Review Committee (FRC).
Unfortunately, the Board’s action was based on misinformation or lack of information. Our current TPZ regulations are consistent with State law; houses are a compatible use on TPZ lands and TPZ landowners with homes do not receive an unfair tax advantage.