Daniel Mintz, The Independent – 10/6/09sports74.ru
The Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights has expanded the depth of its advocacy, sending 4,000 letters to farmland and timberland owners advising of them of what could happen with the General Plan Update.
Building entitlement in rural areas, particularly on land zoned for agricultural and timberland production, is one of the Update’s most debated aspects. There have been calls for restricting residential building on resource lands but Humboldt CPR equates some of the update’s policy proposals with reeling back property rights.
In a Sept. 25 press release announcing the mailings, the group warned that “the data in these letters and a close reading of the proposed re-vamp of the General Plan spells out in very clear terms that building a home on one’s own legal property will be a dream denied to many if proposed changes go through.”
In an interview, Estelle Fennell, the group’s executive director, said the mailing cost about $1,700 and is the first one in what’s hoped to be a series. Letters sent to property owners advise them of what their land is currently zoned as, and the conditions it will be subject to if it’s rezoned under Update alternatives A and B.
“Alternative A is the most restrictive and onerous to rural landowners and Alternative B (called the ‘staff recommended’) is much more restrictive than the plan we are operating under today,” the letter reads.
It tells the property owners that policies on merging contiguous parcels, increasing minimum density acreage and subtracting “historic entitlements to a house” will yield devaluation.
“The overall result is that your parcel will be less useful, whether you want to build or not, and therefore less valuable,” the letter states. “We believe that property devaluation could approach 50 percent or more for many parcels.”
The letter ends by inviting membership with Humboldt CPR.
Fennell believes the restrictive approach is based on a faulty assumption. “The county is basically following the theory of keeping people out of rural lands – that we’re bad for the landscape and bad for biodiversity,” she said. “But we’re part of that diversity and our challenge, as enlightened beings, is to live in that mix in a way that restores and keeps the balance.”
She added that the update can be crafted to allow rural residence and reflect stewardship-oriented standards.
The press release states that “despite repeated requests, the county has failed to send out notifications of the proposed changes to Humboldt County’s resource landowners.” County Supervising Planner Tom Hofweber said it’s a question of timing.
“The question that’s been put to the Planning Commission is, ‘What is the appropriate time to send notice to individual landowners and are we going to do it multiple times?’” he said. “In our opinion, we haven’t gone far enough down the road to give them notice that ‘the zoning on your property is going to change from one thing to another.’”
Policies that result in zoning changes or new restrictions focus on resource lands, he continued. “The policy discussion is, ‘What changes do we need to ensure a stable land base and prevent wholesale conversion of our resource land base,’” Hofweber said. “By and large, individual rural landowners don’t come into that mix unless they’re on land zoned ag or timber.”
Water shortages and other issues can limit development capacity, he continued, which has influenced the Update’s policy recommendations. “Property rights is one part of the equation – land capabilities is a bigger part,” Hofweber said.