High Sierra Rural Alliance Sues Sierra County

Waiting until the last minute to file, HSRA has sued the county for enacting an ordinance which defined the "high water line" of a lake, creek or stream as the high water line.

The Prospect has not seen all pertinent documents, but the letter of notice shows nothing new, and says:


The term "zoning amendment" might not be accurate; it seems it is an amendment to the zoning ordinance of the General Plan.

It is unlikely that HSRA has added many "other claims" since their first objections before the Sierra County Planning Commission, and there is nothing new on their website.

The main thrust of the complaint seems to have two parts.

First, a general plan amendment took place without a CEQA document (there was a PC finding that no CEQA declarations was needed).

Second, that the change in the definition is not in keeping with the General Plan.

Subsequently, HSRA seems to feel that the change from 100 year flood plain to the normal, rational, meaningful definition of high water mark will somehow present a danger to the environment.

If HSRA is successful in preventing the county from declaring the high water line as the high water line, every building within 100 feet of the 100 year flood plain would be non-compliant and require a variance, meaning a permit would be required for every minor event to such a dwelling or building. It would increase the cost of building, increase the cost of buying and selling homes so designated.

The County simply can’t afford to do the kind of CEQA documents and General Plan amendment that HSRA demands, nor is there any evidence such documents are necessary. Further, the definition of "high water line" is nearly ubiquitous, as a survey of 11 definitions of "high water line" from jurisdictions around the country showed no material deviation from the definition accepted by the Board last April. No definition mentioned the "100 year" flood plain as confused with "high water line".

The Plumas-Sierra Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights has proposed an initiative to write the definition into ordinance, and such an initiative is not subject to CEQA, but HSRA could still sue for contradiction with the general plan. High Sierra could also sue the proponents, though that is less likely.

The Supervisors have at least three choices.

They can simply say "to hell with the people of Sierraville, Downieville, Goodyear’s Bar, Sierra City, and parts of Loyalton" and rescind the ordinance, making the 100 year flood plain the rule.

They can meet HSRA in court.

They can wait until the proposed initiative is passed in November.

They can adopt the initiative as ordinance now.

It remains to be seen how much support the initiative has in the county, and how much will to, once and for all, put HSRA in their place.


Read an editorial on the issue HERE, and past articles HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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