CAPR Meets 061210

CAPR Meets: Patience Prevails 061310

Many were hoping the new "high water mark" initiative would have been available for signing today, but they’ll have to wait just a little longer.

At a meeting of the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights on Saturday the members agreed to be patient before submitting their initiative for signatures.

A discussion with the group’s attorney, Heather Kenny, revealed that rushing the initiative through at this point might have "unintended consequences" for some people who want a building permit.

The issue is the definition of "high water line". Historically the county considered "high water mark" to be self-explanatory. Everyone who has ever lived by a stream or done much fishing knows there is a mark on the bank which represents the high water line for most years. It isn’t hard to find for most lakes, streams or rivers.

However, a few years ago, under some duress, the "100 year flood plain boundary" became interpreted as "high water line".

The two are unalike in their frequency. The hundred year flood plain line is the water line one percent or less of seasons. The high water line is the limit of most streams and lakes the majority of years.

The definition determines if a person needs some special variance or permit to build a house or add to an existing house, or not.

This strongly impacts the build-ability of some locations, many of which are tens of feet or more above the river or lake. Adding an unnecessary expense to houses simply doesn’t make sense.

Attorney Heather Kenny speaks to about 25 CAPR members in Sierraville

The county Board of Supervisors approved the current definition, which meets the common needs of the term, and certainly the needs of the ordinance. But, a local group has sued the county for making the change without CEQA analysis and without amending the General Plan. The GP is overdue for updating, but right now, the process is deemed too expensive. The change in definition, particularly when the definition is so logical, should not require the update or CEQA.

The initiative as proposed would sidestep the matter of CEQA but not other complaints of the lawsuit, Ms. Kenny told the group. There is no way to know what a judge might do until the matter is before the court.

Some questions arose about how the initiative might impact those who were seeking a building permit in the interim. The suggestion was made that more time was needed to be sure the ordinance wouldn’t create any problems for people doing work on a building that might become "legal, non-conforming." It was decided to wait until more research could be done.

Ms. Kenny declined to discuss specific groups or personalities, saying only that the matter needs to be approached from the perspective of logic, and not personalities.

The group affirmed its determination to get the definition accepted, so that people can reasonably use their land.

Those anxious to sign the ordinance should be able to do so in a couple of weeks, when the group’s board meets again.

Those wishing to join CAPR can visit their website HERE 

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