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Humboldt Coalition For Property Rights > Press > Articles > Determining the Path of Humboldt County

Determining the Path of Humboldt County

This Thursday, June 11th, at 5:30 p.m. the Humboldt County Planning Commission will hold a special Open Forum "Town Hall" style meeting at the College of the Redwoods Forum Theater just south of Eureka. The meeting will address the Land Use Element of the General Plan Update (GPU) and is in response to calls from the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights, among others, for a more open dialog between those who will ultimately decide the path Humboldt County will take into the next couple of decades and those who will walk that path.Фальшполы и их актуальность

Though the update has been in the works for years, it is only recently that we have seen much discussion of the restrictions that are being proposed, especially for rural lands. Clearly the initial outreach efforts were not comprehensive enough or somewhere along the line the focus changed.

For many rural landowners the situation suddenly became clear with the county’s reaction to the former Pacific Lumber Company’s bankruptcy-related pie-in-the-sky proposal for an upscale subdivision in the Yager Creek area. The county responded by proposing an ordinance that would take away the ministerial right of any property owner to build a home on land zoned for timber production anywhere in the county. (Even though the ill-fated plan would have been subject to the Subdivision Map Act).

Essentially, for fear of the plans of a few, the county was willing to destroy the dreams of many. In the face of strong public outcry those plans were withdrawn, but it now appears they may just have been put on hold. So here we go again!

One particularly significant goal of the current update is to protect resource lands. This is surely a goal on which we can all agree. But problems arise when we get to the policies that will lead to implementation of that goal.

Sprinkled throughout the current proposals are statements that will concern you if you currently own rural property in Humboldt County or plan to do so some day.

For instance, when it comes to property in areas zoned for timber production, one proposal (Plan A) states "Residential use shall be limited to individuals employed on the premises for lands planned Industrial Timber (IT) or necessary for the management of timberlands on lands planned Timber Production (T)."

That is a slippery slope that might, for instance, make it impossible for someone who owns timberland to live on his or her own property because he or she has to work elsewhere to make ends meet. And what’s the problem with living on timberland in the first place?

Back when this update was first being put together, the planning department took input from people throughout the county and a set of guiding principles was hashed out. The No. 1 guiding principle became preserving the county’s unique character and quality of life and preserving the existing rural and natural character of our communities. I think we need to reflect again on what that means because in my mind some of the more prominent proposals fly in the face of that principle.

Take, for instance, the proposal in the rural lands segment of the land use element to "Decrease inventory of Rural Residential lands" (RL-IMx). How do you go about that while preserving the existing rural character of our communities?

We must not limit our vision to added restrictions as a path to preserving our unique Humboldt character.
Why not look at encouraging good stewardship as a way to protecting our resources?
Why not take the view that those who are stewards of the land are best suited to knowing what’s best for it?
Why not incentivize good water management and sustainable agriculture?
Why not make a good thing better before creating a whole new character for rural Humboldt that takes people out of the equation and emphasizes urban areas as the ideal for residential use?

In a county as diverse as ours, there is no one answer and planning should allow for different lifestyles. Let’s keep the choice open for those who desire and are suited to our rigorous and healthy lifestyle and who cherish the spiritual and invigorating power of nature.

There is one other requirement of the General Plan Update (GPU) that bears repeating at this point in the discussion: "Regulations that restrict the use of private property need to be justified based on a rational relationship to public interests."

Let’s keep these principles in mind when we discuss our views with the Planning Commission Thursday evening. If you value your rural property rights and our Humboldt quality of life, don’t miss this rare opportunity to speak directly with commissioners. Under the Open Forum format you will be able to ask questions of the commissioners and staff and you can expect some real-time discussion of your concerns. At the April 30th meeting commissioners seemed very interested in hearing firsthand from concerned community members. They wanted to hear more. Let’s be sure they do. Hope to see you there.

Estelle Fennell is the executive director of the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights.

Estelle Fennell/For The Times-Standard
Posted: 06/09/2009 09:36:10 PM PDT