John Hollis: Too many booby traps in Measure T
We could debate, argue and discuss all day long the pros and cons of the people making land decisions versus the supervisors making the decisions, but that isn't what Measure T is about — it's about a poorly-written ballot measure that hides too many booby traps and installs too many road blocks into Yuba County's land-use rules.
This isn't something that will just affect the property owners outside the cities and approved communities. It will put the touch on every Yuba County resident because all of us will have to pay if we don't put our X in the measure's "No" block.
While there are numerous reasons to vote Measure T down, I think the most important are:
• Costly elections.
• The jump in the cost of doing business in Yuba County.
• That it will be rich developers, not local property owners, making changes to Yuba County.
• Job growth will be hurt.
• The overriding scope.
Measure T would require all General Plan amendments be voted on, and passed, by the people. This "vote" wouldn't just cost the property owner who wants the change; that election would have to be paid for by every taxpayer in the county.
Beyond the cost, consider what the property owner would have to go through to move a fence line or change the eating area at his restaurant.
Once the property owner had jumped through every regulatory hoop, he or she would be forced to go to the people. It's not clear in the measure who would pay to place the measure on the ballot, but even if it's not the property owner, he would have to pay the cost of the campaign — fliers, signs and all the rest needed to convince the public his proposed change is a good thing.
Elections aren't cheap. In a regularly scheduled election, it costs a few thousand dollars for a single measure to be added to the ballot, but if it's a special election, those costs jump to between $130,000 and $175,000.
Cost of doing business
If the county is the one who has to pay those election costs — where would the money come from? The logical way to pay would be to increase planning fees. This, of course, would raise the cost of doing business in the county; likely turning businesses away.
Consider this example: A property owner wants to put up a barn. Today, he would have to figure in the cost for the design, the materials, the labor and the permits.
If Measure T is approved, he would have to add in thousands of dollars to beg people in Marysville and Wheatland, who know nothing about his property, to get those people to say it's OK to spend his own time and money to improve his property.
Who has the money, time and expertise to work around this onerous regulation? Would it be the small property owner with a limited budget? Or would it be the big developer with his lawyers, deep pockets and the time to get his way?
Right now, Yuba County has an unemployment rate of more than 17 percent. If property improvements and construction are slowed by Measure T, which direction would that rate go? What opportunities would there be for more jobs? What would happen to the businesses that support construction? What would happen to the businesses where those workers would have eaten or shopped?
Part of the problem with Measure T is the term "natural resources." According to the county's General Plan, it covers all of the county's croplands, forests, grazing lands, critical habitat, water and groundwater recharge areas, private recreation as well as public open space. In other words, just about every piece of land outside a city, designated community or Beale Air Force Base is "natural resource," and that is around three quarters of Yuba County.
This means if Measure T is approved, the zoning regulations and ordinances that are already in place, that already protect that property, would be thrown out.
At this time, we have a good system in place to address land use — county staff, Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors — that has proven itself for years. Why should we change that?
Also, the county recently completed its General Plan after months and months of public input at a cost of $1.5 million.
Should all that work be thrown out, and those millions of dollars be written off, for this poorly written, burdensome and unnecessary measure?
Two final questions:
• Didn't Supervisor Hal Stocker praise, in writing, the General Plan right after it was completed?
• Don't you wonder who's really behind this measure?