Supervisors Disregard County Regulations
Eureka – The Board of Supervisors recently ignored the County’s Lot Line Adjustment regulations and denied an appeal filed by local landowners Ron & Nancy Sweet. The Sweet’s, who own two adjoining parcels in the Briceland area applied for a simple lot line adjustment in August of 2008. They soon found out nothing is simple when dealing with the Planning Department.
In late October of 2008, the County notified the Sweets they needed to conduct soils testing for leachfield areas and water quantity testing of their water source. The problem was that the dry-weather testing period for the water source was about to close. Had the project been opened and referred in a timely manner the Sweet’s would not have had to frantically find an engineer at the last minute. Of course, as expected the soils and water supply met the County requirements. The Sweet’s were also required to have a building site evaluated by an engineer to certify that a building site was available on the 40 acre vacant parcel. The cost for leach field testing is about $3,000 per parcel. The cost for the water quantity testing is about $500 and the cost for a typical R-2 Report building site evaluation is also about $3,000 per parcel. As one can see a simple lot line adjustment could cost you $10,000 just to demonstrate site suitability, even if you’re not planning to build.
In May of 2009 the County approved the Sweet’s lot line adjustment, but the approval required the Sweet’s to obtain Building Permits for the house and shop that were built without permits some 20 plus years ago before they could complete and record the approved lot line adjustment. However, the conditioned approval is contrary to the County’s lot line adjustment regulations (Section 325.5-6 & 325.5-9 Humboldt County Code). Basically, these provisions state that lot line adjustments cannot be conditioned on resolving existing building permit violations. This was clearly the intent of the Lot Line Adjustment Ordinance Revision Committee and is indisputable. Tom Stephen’s a Professional Land Surveyor and former chairman of the Committee said: “We worked closely with County Counsel in writing the ordinance so that is was clear that lot line adjustments were not to be conditioned on remedying building permit violations.” Mike O’Hern another Professional Land Surveyor who also served on the Committee stated: “The ordinance clearly says that correction of building ordinance violations is not required.”
The Sweet’s appealed the conditional approval to the Board of Supervisors in late May of 2009. Although the County Ordinance requires that appeals be heard within thirty (30) days of their filing, the appeal wasn’t heard until December 1, 2009. The County continued to ignore their own regulations and recommended that the Board deny the appeal. The Board, led by Supervisor Clif Clendenen, did just that, they denied the Sweet’s appeal.
The Sweet’s land use consultant and former County Planner, Kevin Caldwell said: “The Board broke the law and they don’t seem to care. It’s really frustrating to have the County force folks to jump through so many hoops in the name of compliance with local, state and federal regulations, only to have the County themselves pick and choose which rules, regulations and laws they want to comply with. It’s important to remember that the Board themselves promulgated and adopted the ordinance. I’m really disappointed in Supervisor Clendenen who said “…the bar is not high here for compliance.” This is a puzzling statement from a person who blatantly disregarded the provisions of the County Code.”
Rural Living – A Healthy Lifestyle
Stuart Cataldo M.D.
As a local primary care physician, I understand that a foundation of our health lies in our exercise habits and in our lifestyles. For people who live “in town,” I am a strong supporter of the Smart Growth style of development which encourages walking and biking instead of driving. To me, the health benefits seem obvious.
I was surprised, however, when I learned that the Health Impact Assessment of the General Plan Update implied that Smart Growth urban development was healthier than rural living. It just makes no sense to me. I moved a few miles from town largely to improve my health, physically and mentally. Sure, I do have to drive to work. However, the exercise that I get in a week from landscaping, hiking the hills with my dogs, gardening, filling potholes on my road, and chasing after my children far surpasses a walk to work. My neighbors who work on their land are far more active than me.
The psychological benefits of rural living cannot be ignored. I live in, and am surrounded by nature. When I walk out my front door I peer into a redwood forest. When I walk my dogs, I get to wander by and listen to a trickling stream. When the sun comes out I can watch my yard, my flowers, and my apple trees grow. When my kids finally fall asleep, what I hear is true quiet. If I did live in town, I would certainly want to live near a park. But that would never compare to the stress relief and spiritual centering that I can find everyday living in the hills of Humboldt County.
Most important to me is the benefit of rural living for my children’s health. Every day their front yard is a park. They have room to run and play. They are as safe as children can be in our society. They appreciate the beauty of living in nature and learn biology by watching the world around them. In our house, archery means setting up a few straw bales outside, not turning on the video game console.
The most important factor in a healthy lifestyle is attitude. Whether you live in town or in a rural area, you can be active or you can be sedentary. It is certainly beneficial to develop urban areas in a manner that encourages walking and biking. In my opinion, the healthiest lifestyle can be found in a quiet place, surrounded by nature, with ample space to stretch ones’ legs. For many people, Humboldt County is about the rural lifestyle. I sincerely hope that we can work together to develop smarter urban communities, the preservation of open space for all, and the protection of the rural lifestyle for those who choose it!