Friday, November 16, 2007

Pacific Lumber Bankruptcy Mediation Postponed?

Back when Judge Schmidt ordered that Pacific Lumber and their creditors go through mediation to try come up with a mutually agreeable reorganization plan to get PL out of bankruptcy, I thought the 30 day countdown had begun.

Now Maxxam is saying in their quarterly report filed Nov. 14th that "the mediation is scheduled to begin the week of November 26, 2007." and "There can be no assurance that the mediation will be successful."

How reassuring.

This is contrary to what the Times-Standard and the SF Chronicle reported on October 24th. They both made it sound like the full mediation would have to be carried out within 30 days of the hearing.

SF Chron:
The federal Bankruptcy Court judge presiding over the Pacific Lumber Co.'s Chapter 11 process told the bitterly divided parties Tuesday to pick a mediator by Friday and present a unified plan within 30 days.

Schmidt gave the parties until the end of the week to agree on a judge or hired a professional to guide the talks, and lit a short fuse on the matter. Schmidt said he expects key decision makers from the various creditor groups and from Palco to be on hand to craft an agreement.
”In the end give me a mediator, and I want it done in 30 days,” Schmidt said

More From Maxxams Quarterly Report

"The Trustee for the Scopac Timber Notes has also proposed a plan of reorganization with respect to Scopac. The Trustee's plan essentially provides for the rapid liquidation of Scopac."

The Timber Note Holders are the creditors (mainly banks and insurance companies) that loaned money to Pacific Lumber with their timberland as the collateral. Since PL can't pay off the loans the Note Holders want to foreclose on (take possession of) the land. I'd like to see the Note Holders reorganization plan for myself.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Second Try

I think I should have whittled down that last post before publishing it. I'm not a lawyer like Eric but points 2 and 3 are my careful interpretation of California State TPZ codes.

The core message I'm trying to get across is;

1. I want to avoid a permitting process that makes necessary residences on TPZ land cost prohibitive.

2. To me, a necessary residence is one needed to manage the land which has been given a TPZ designation. The state code doesn't require that a residence is needed to grow trees.

3. Management includes engagement in any use that is compatible with, but not limited to, timber production. Some compatible uses would be grazing, stream and forest habitat restoration, road improvement, hunting, fishing, foraging and much more.

Update 11/16

Mark Lovelace posted a comment on this blog yesterday (Nov. 15th) which included the folowing:

"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. "


"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."

Thank you for clarifying the Humboldt Watershed Councils position on this.

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.

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