CAPR Responds to HSRA PR

The Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, i.e. CAPR
Press Release in response to
HSRA's press release
re: lawsuit filed against Sierra Co., re: TPZ

The High Sierra Rural Alliance once again is suing Sierra County, challenging the recently approved Timberland Production Zone (TPZ) ordinance on the grounds that the ordinance is contrary to the Sierra County General Plan and the California Environmental Quality Act. HSRA is mistaken.

The Timber Resources Element section of the Sierra County General Plan very clearly indicates that the county’s land use role in this domain is limited to the State of California’s Timberland Productivity Act and California Forest Practice Rules. The state law defines a single residence on TPZ land as a permitted and compatible use.  While the Sierra County General Plan discourages urban development outside of the community core, it does not forbid the building of a single residence on private property.  The General Plan describes urban areas as existing communities where residential, commercial, industrial, and other urban uses [are] allowed.  A single residence on a parcel 80 acres or more can not be considered “urban” but rather is “rural” in every sense of the word. One of the fundamental goals of the General Plan is to preserve our “rural” quality of life.   
The HSRA also claims that the TPZ ordinance is contrary to CEQA.  Again not true.  Anyone who takes out a building permit, no matter where they are building, must conform to building and environmental codes and other assorted rules and regulations.  A special environmental impact report is not required.

The recent HSRA press release mentions fire hazard as a reason to forbid a residence on TPZ property.  In fact, if a landowner lives on his land, it is far more likely that the property is carefully managed to prevent wildfire.  Further, most forest fires originate on public land and many are caused by lightning.  One advantage of having landowners live on their property is that they are often the first to report forest fires that have started on nearby public lands.

Another argument made by HSRA for not allowing a residence on TPZ is “inefficient vehicle use.”  The HSRA is suggesting that a property owner live some distance from his property.  Wouldn’t this necessitate long distance daily driving during the work season?  Wouldn’t it be much more efficient to live on one’s property and thus avoid all the unnecessary fuel consumption?

The HSRA is under the misconception that “lands zoned TPZ are afforded generous tax benefits.”  In fact, by state law TPZ lands are provided a taxation alternative to the ad valorem assessment of standing timber, allowing the landowner a longer growing period.  The County collects the tax after the landowner has harvested the timber and finally has received a paycheck.  The intent of the law is to make it affordable for the timberland owner to continue growing trees and, thus, maintain forestland in tact.  A residence or any other structure on TPZ land is taxed at exactly the same rate as any other structure in the county.

The HSRA has “cherry picked” various phrases out of the General Plan in an attempt to sway public opinion but these phrases are taken out of context and have nothing to do with the TPZ ordinance.  The claim that a new residence on TPZ property will end up costing the residents of existing communities (a false statement) is particularly disingenuous in the face of the high costs to Sierra County taxpayers for yet another lawsuit brought against the county by the HSRA.

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