[gjr - Lauren Lund submitted this piece in response to my report on yesterday's BoS meeting. While I constrained my remarks to process and format, Lauren expands her scope to also include the content of the newly adopted Safety Element of county's General Plan.]
George, you are not alone in thinking the 9/9/08 Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting was bizarre. It was more than bizarre. CABPRO plus others thought it illogical, maybe even a flip-flop in attitude by the BOS.
2- The BOS approving the SE, which is a recognized policy document, but allowing it to remain loaded with wording like “guidelines” and “recommendations” for extreme environmentalist elements that they formerly said should be removed to an educational document.
3- Also bizarre, how our "conservative" BOS would default to attitudes such as "this is the best we can expect for now," or "let’s just get on with this," and therein approve a document that any liberal environmentalist would be pleased to set their name to.
Illogical: 1- The BOS were on record at two different BOS meetings in the Spring of 2008, saying they wanted clarity between what are mandated/regulatory fire safety standards versus what are environmentalist recommendations. Then, illogically, they chose to breeze past the fact that no such clarifications were made or documented in the updated SE. Was there some flip-flop?
2- Illogically, one Supervisor tried to spin the clarification issue as a matter of property rights versus following mandated clearing regulations. Huh? What did that have to do with anything? Nobody at this meeting was quibbling over known state and county mandates. Of course we care about fire safety and obeying safety laws that are truly laws.
3- However, one County staff person did offer a minimal table separating County mandates from State mandates, but illogically, this table still did not provide the repeatedly requested clarification between mandates and recommendations.
4- Also, illogically, the BOS determined that staff's table of County versus State mandated regulations should go into the yet unwritten educational document, but not into the SE policy document. And thanks George. I am aware that your own excellent work of clarifying the mandated regulations from environmentalist recommendations in your professionally done, clearly labeled, and easily understood table, helped the BOS and staff to finally included something along this line. Now, if they would only put your table in the policy document, then citizens and staff looking for policy would find these distinctions clearly spelled out.
A flip-flop in attitude by the BOS? 1- The murky mixture of mandated policies and environmentalist recommendations that characterized the problematic 12/21/07 Fire Plan was, in effect, simply transferred into the General Plan Safety Element (GPSE), thereby elevating the whole mixture into a policy document, listing much of it under policy action headings. And the BOS approved it.
2- As if property owners are not ham-strung and hog-tied, taxed and fee-d enough already, here is a very small sample of prohibitive instructions taken directly from the now approved SE, that property owners may look forward to. From: https://docs.co.nevada.ca.us/dsweb/Get/Document-525634/SafetyElement_wtrackedchanges-080108.pdf
Chapter 10: Safety – Draft August 1, 2008
Nevada County General Plan Volume 1 – page 157-8
Small excerpt from: Action Policies FP-10.11.1
Dead or dying oaks or conifers should be removed, along with suppressed conifer species.
Individual trees or groups of trees can be retained, based on species, size, and slope conditions, with the following conditions:
(a) Heritage oak trees and landmark oak groves should be retained;
(b) Trees should be healthy and generally free of dead branches and leaves;
(c) Trees should be horizontally separated a distance of 10 to 30 feet between trunk of trees; and
(d) The lower canopy of trees should be vertically separated from the understory, with limbing or pruning to a height of 8 feet in order to prevent canopy fires.
(4) Dead and down woody vegetation: Dead and down woody vegetation that is 8 or fewer inches in diameter and 2 or more feet in length… etc.
3- Indeed, if these kinds of statements are intended as only guidelines or recommendations, then they don’t belong in the GPSE under "Action Policies." This kind of content should be placed instead in the educational document. This was suggested to the BOS, but still they left it all as part of the GPSE where statements often evolve into ordinances and ordinances eventually give birth to a rash of new permits, inspections, and fees. 4- If this is not concern enough, the approved SE also includes Directive Policy FP-10.11.2.1 “Support the Nevada County Wildland Stewardship Program," a recognized extreme environmentalist program, that unquestionably should go to the educational document, but not be included in the policy document. However, it too was left in place and approved by the BOS as part of the SE.
Extreme environmentalists may be cheering now, while the more moderate environmentalists, conservatives, and property owners among us are surprised, to say the very least. With all due respect, we want to have confidence in our Supervisors, however various of their comments, their seeming shift in attitude from earlier this year, and their ultimate decision to approve the problematic updated Safety Element, just as it is, gives rise to more concern.