Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Some Analysis of the Timber Production Zoning Situation

I am trying to clear up some basic misunderstandings of the state timberland code provisions. click here for the entire original document.

I agree that the current county codes applying to residences on TPZ are weaker than the state codes. But it appears to me that some forces within the county government as well as the Humboldt Watershed Council are pushing for more restrictive zoning codes than are required by the state. I hesitate to believe that these efforts, if continued on their current trajectory, will unquestionably benefit the environment or county residents.

I believe that the county should adopt some kind of discretionary permitting process but I think that requiring a person to prove that their residence is/will be "neccessary for timber management" is a mistake. It exceeds what is required by state codes to the detriment of small landowners. There are other ways to protect the environment and ensure timber revenues. I hope to get into that in another post.

State code 51104 (h) reads:

(h)‘‘Compatible use’’ is any use which does not significantly detract from the use of the property for, or inhibit, growing and harvesting timber, and shall include, but not be limited to, any of the following, unless in a specific instance such a use would be contrary to the preceding definition of compatible use:

(1) Management for watershed.

(2) Management for fish and wildlife habitat or hunting and fishing.

(3) A use integrally related to the growing, harvesting and processing of
forest products, including but not limited to roads, log landings, and log
storage areas.

(4) The erection, construction, alteration, or maintenance of gas, electric,
water, or communication transmission facilities.

(5) Grazing.

(6) A residence or other structure necessary for the management of land zoned as timberland production.(emphasis mine)

My Analysis
The code does not say that the residence must be necessary for growing trees. It says it must be necessary for managing the land.

The county's permitting process that has problems but replacing the old county TPZ code with one that far exceeds state requirments is not the solution to the permit problem.

This thing about the Forest Review Committee trying to figure out when a residence is necessary for growing trees is a red herring. State code says nothing about a residence being "necessary for timber management" as proposed in option A of the draft General Plan for Humboldt County. It says a residense must be "necessary for the management of land zoned as timberland production".

On page two of the County Staff report # 10 for the November 15th meeting the county staff misstates the code by using the phrase,"necessary for the management of the timberland."

As we have heard, land designation as Timber Production Zone (TPZ) is not always "timberland". There are also grasslands zoned as TPZ. The states legal defenition of "Timberland" is as follows.

51104 (f) ‘‘Timberland’’ means privately owned land, or land acquired for state forest purposes, which is devoted to and used for growing and harvesting timber, or for growing and harvesting timber and compatible uses, and which is capable of growing an average annual volume of wood fiber of at least 15 cubic feet per acre.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that timber production and rural residences are generally not mutually exclusive unless artificially made so by the government.

More on this to come.


At 11/15/2007 11:50:00 AM, Anonymous Mark Lovelace said...

Jane, perhaps you have not been at any of the hearings on this issue before the Board of Supervisors or the Forest Review Committee. If you had, then you would know that the Humboldt Watershed Council has never taken a position that residences should not be allowed on TPZ lands, or that they should have to be proven 'necessary' for the management of lands zoned TPZ.

No one I know or have spoken with has argued that residences are never compatible with TPZ lands (though CDF's position on the issue, as stated at the November 7th FRC hearing, comes pretty close.) Similarly, no one I know has argued that residential development on TPZ lands is never a conflict. The problem here is that the County currently has no discretionary ability to consider when a residence may be allowable, or when it may detract.

The Humboldt Watershed Council has taken the clearly-stated position that a person who owns a manageable piece of timberland should reasonably be allowed to live on that land. However, this should not allow for every landowner to put a house on every parcel, nor should it allow for properties too small for management to become subsidised residential properties.

HWC has advocated for a distinction between industrial timber and non-industrial timber, with different residential allowances for each. We have also advocated for a ministerial (non-discretionary) permit for residences on non-industrial TPZ properties of 160 acres or more. On properties smaller than 160 acres, we believe the County should have some reasonable discretion to ensure that the development does not detract from the ability to manage the land, or neighboring TPZ lands.

This is not a black-and-white issue, and no one is trying to take away property rights. All that is being sought is some conditional discretion that the County currently does not have.

At 11/15/2007 01:56:00 PM, Anonymous Mark Lovelace said...

Oops! John, not Jane. Sorry about that. I was used to seeing a "Jane Doe" on the blogs.

At 11/15/2007 09:27:00 PM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

Thank you for your comment Mark. I am considering my response.

At 11/16/2007 04:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John D.: Mark just doesn't get it. In a rural setting a home is always necessary to manage the land.

If you are not on your property, you lose rights concerning your property to others who do. I am sure you have heard about prescriptive easements. You can get them for any use, including but not limited to rights to use roads, trails, cut trees, take water, hunt, fish, grow marijuana, camp, ride bikes, quads, horses, picnic etc. etc.

Unfortunately for the county and for Mark's group, the public now no longer trusts the board, planning staff or Healthy Humboldt or the HWC. They blew an awful lot of capital with this.

And if that is really his position, then can he explain why he has an open line with Tom Hofweber. And can he explain the June 3, 2005 memo from Girard to the Planning Commission outlining 600 acre minimums in TPZ and Ag with CUP’s for all development of homes? This memo certainly shows that this was clearly planned over 2 years ago.

I for one do not believe in the county any longer to exercise good discretion as the sketch plan principles call for denying any growth whatsoever that is not attached to an existing water supply or sewer and to discourage any rural growth, concentrating growth only in urban areas. Frankly, with this as a principle, planning will be using its discretion to deny all construction.

At 11/16/2007 04:56:00 PM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

I seriously doubt that someone could get an easement allowing them to grow marijuana on someone elses land.

"the sketch plan principles call for denying any growth whatsoever that is not attached to an existing water supply or sewer and to discourage any rural growth, concentrating growth only in urban areas."

Can you specifically cite where it says that? I'd like to see it.

At 11/20/2007 07:29:00 PM, Blogger Rose said...

I think if you go to...
Humboldt County website ...
community development...
general plan update ...

it is in the guiding principles.

I'm looking.

At 11/21/2007 08:33:00 AM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

I found this in the Guiding Principles-

3. The plan must ensure efficient use of water and sewer services and focus development in those areas and discourage low density residential conversion of resource lands and open space.

Not exactly as extreme as "denying any growth whatsoever that is not attached to an existing water supply or sewer"

It's a little unclear if they are reffering to zoning changes of TPZ and Ag to Residential or the so called "De facto conversion" of buidling on TPZ.

At 11/21/2007 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all John, you need to read on for the full effect of all of the guiding principles.

Then consider them with respect to Ag property and with what is discussed in that context along with the merger ordinances. The goal is to merge existing parcels into six under acres (both tpz and ag - around 2 million acres and make building impossible on less then 600 acres.

A water service and a sewer service are not found in rural areas. (you find wells there and septic systems.) If you are discouraging growth in these areas and discouraging any building that is not connected with a water "service" and sewer "service," than how do you think that planning department staff is going to implement their conditioned "approval?" How many water districts and sewer districts are out there and where are they in relation to 1 million TPZ acres? We are not talking in a vacuum here. We are talking about a planning staff that has seriously misrepresented to the public their current rights to build on their properties (this has been discussed in depth in so many meetings etc.) and has misled the public during committee meetings, commission meetings and board meetings. Why would anyone trust them with such a track record and with such "guiding principles?" The answer is that they are not trusted any longer at all by people who historically left them alone because they assumed that they would do no harm.

This should have never left the general plan process because that is where their is the complete discussion of all the issues concerning the total effects of this would be hashed out. But staff wouldn't get their way if that happened. Fortunately, the members of the FRC (forest resources committee) who are familiar with rural properties and how to manage them utterly rejected planning staff’s proposals as being unworkable for management of these areas. Planning knew it would never get its way so when it heard about the idea floated by PALCO before the bankruptcy court, so they decided to make it the springboard to get this out of the general plan discussion by relying on the fact that so many of us would be so blinded by hating PALCO that we wouldn’t see how it effected property ownership of all tpz (approx 1 million acres) and that we would also miss the fact that the same thing is slated for ALL ag property too.

But then the board lost their fourth vote for continuing the moratorium, so staff again got board members to submit this issue as conditional use permits on less than 600 acres and remove it from the general plan process to try and get their way over the objections and guidance of the FRC and property owners. You see it doesn’t mean squat to them how it impacts individuals in this county or if it financially devastates a couple of thousand people, as long as they get their way. This is why the whole idea of a conditional use permit and allowing “staff” to use “their” discretion is being utterly rejected by all of the property owners right now and others too.

And John D., when you say that you seriously doubt that anyone could get a prescriptive easement to grow pot, you are not thinking this through. You can obtain a prescriptive easement to do anything if you prove that you have been doing it for the stated amount of time. You forget, 215 is the law now and that with each card from someone like Ken Miller or his equivalent, you can grow 99 plants. Get 10 cards and grow 999 plants. It doesn’t matter if you are growing grapes, corn, lettuce or pot. Doesn’t matter if you are using a road, have built a road, are hunting or fishing, riding your four wheeler or camping, or using someone’s unused cabin, tapping into someone's water supply or stream - the list is endless. If you are an absentee landowner, you lose rights because the law doesn't think kindly of absentee landowners keeping their rights.

At 11/21/2007 11:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry - need to proof read. That should be six hundred acres and not "six under acres"

At 11/21/2007 06:32:00 PM, Blogger Rose said...

Thank you, Anonymous 11:44. Very interesting.

I must compliment you, John Doe for the quality of open, honest and thoughtful discussion here. Such a rare thing.

At 11/21/2007 08:21:00 PM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

I appreciate the compliment Rose. Thank you for engaging me in discussion and I look forward to more.

Anonymous, thank you for taking the time to post here. It may be a couple days before I can respond to your points, but I will.


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