Bring What Ya Got

Bring What Ya Got:
The Supervisors make their position on the general plan and the issuance of building permits clear.  100610

The Sierra County Board of Supervisors went in to a closed session for a very long time this Tuesday, and when they came out they made their point clear: we’re going to issue building permits, but the folks who get them might have to go to court.

It is a brave stance, though some felt it wasn’t bold enough.  For those who have been watching this issue closely, it was realistic and determined.

The issue of building permits currently focuses on stream setback.  Briefly, High Sierra Rural Alliance, a handful of local people with an attorney and backers from out of the county, has brought suit against the county for not implementing the general plan.  The GP was adopted, but it’s taken awhile for all the codes to be brought into compliance.  Specifically, the suit calls to task the stream setback ordinance, which uses the common and widely accepted definition of “high water line”.   The County does have a plan, and has been working on GP implementation since the plan was adopted.  Ironically, HSRA’s suit is a response to that implementation.

The County had a couple of choices: they could rescind the definition; they could place a moratorium on building until the law suit is settled and if someone sued for not being able to build, the county could lose and see if the court would set itself against the HSRA suit; or they could continue business as usual and let the chips fall where they may.

The Chips.

They’ve settled on the last, instructing Tim Beals, Director of Stuff That Might Explode, to accept, process and issue building permits normally.  They also instructed staff to research to find an attorney skilled in such defense. 

Tim Beals "paralysis" in land use by owners.

It is possible HSRA will simply ask for an injunction from the court to prevent any more permits from being issued, or they might sue the county and whomever tries to build over 100 feet from the high water mark (currently requiring no expensive special use permit) without a special use permit.  The Board instructed staff to alert building permit applicants of that possibility, though of course that is always possible, particularly with mercenary groups like High Sierra Rural Alliance hunting for suits to file. Tim Beals, Director of Crucial Timing said, “those (landowners) who can wait, should wait; those who can’t should proceed.”  Wise property owners might decide not to build now, or perhaps not to build in Sierra County at all.  This effect of dissuading property owners from applying for a building permit is what Beals called a “paralysis” on county planning and building.

There was a discussion in the gallery about the problem of bullies; once you let a bully steal your lunch money your lunch is never safe.  Clearly High Sierra Rural Alliance intends to set itself up as a second government in the county, an opposing building department to the legitimate building department the county has.  

There was a strong showing from the Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) of Sierra and Plumas Counties, some of whom spoke before the Board.  The group’s attorney, Heather Kenny, cautioned the board about building moratoriums early in the proceedings. 

Irv Christiansen took the podium to thank the Board for having the courage to continue.  His plan to remove land near a town from TPZ was protested by HSRA though the move benefited the town and brought the zoning into line with the general plan.

Les Meskimen, a property owner in Sierraville, took the stand to tell of the research he’d done prior to purchasing the property.  He now wants to put a horse barn there, but concerns about the result of the HSRA lawsuit is discouraging him.  He’s been given the information that he can’t, without a special use permit, build a “chicken coop, raised garden, or anything that might disrupt the flow of water.  Tim Beals further described the project, lamented with Mr. Meskimen and encouraged him to be patient and not abandon the project.

Bill Bate questioned, if there were an injunction, who would stop the landowners from building.  Answer: law enforcement, if anyone.  

Marjean Marciniak, one of the landowners most effected by the suit over high water mark, spoke, thanking the board, and expressing the uncertainty she had.  

Pat Hudson, who had earlier suffered an attack from HSRA over a plan to upgrade a parcel on the Downie River, thanked the board for their decision.

Near the end of the proceedings Supervisor Lee Adams stated the unfortunate truth:  It doesn’t matter if all 2500 voters in Sierra County feel the same (about HSRA and the law suit), it’s up to a judge.  

But, it might well matter what the people of the county think, in the long run, as reflected by their determination to prevail in this matter, and to sue HSRA collectively when possible.  

CAPR members present: From L-R
Front row: Laurenc DeVita, Paul Marciniak, Carol Iman, Clark McHuron, John Amodei
2nd row: Irv Christensen, Bill Bate
3rd row: Marjean Marciniak, Robert Eshelman, Scott Schlefstein
4th row: Milt Holstrom, Pat Hudson, Larry Hudson, Johna-Berg-Thran
Couple on stairs on far left: Jill and Les Meskimen
Photo courtesy Carol Iman

It remains to be seen, now, what the tyrant in our midst, the robber baron who uses a courtroom instead of a gun, will do to thwart the plans of lawful citizens trying to use their land.  At some point it isn’t up to the County government to deal with the problem, but to the citizens to confront this group.

Read a letter from Rick Maddalena HERE.
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