Yuba County group forms to oppose Measure T
A coalition of farmers, small-business owners and others have formed an opposition group to the Yuba County ballot initiative Measure T, saying if approved, it will affect small-property owners on a disproportionate scale.
The group, calling itself Yuba County Alliance for Property Rights, is planning yard signs and informational forums, including one tonight in Oregon House, to drum up opposition to the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
"Our concern is that Measure T is presented as something specifically for large developers, but it could impact small-property owners, particularly in the foothills," said Coleen Morehead, the group's campaign coordinator.
Measure T, whose primary supporter is Yuba County Supervisor Hal Stocker, would call for a public vote whenever a proposed development would require changing zoning on land designated in the county's General Plan for agriculture or open space.
But Morehead said details in the measure would also call for such elections for conditional-use pe mits and other smaller approvals, making it highly onerous for someone with just a few acres who wanted to develop.
Among those who are part of the coalition are Yuba County supervisors John Nicoletti and Roger Abe, Bishop's Pumpkin Farm owner Wayne Bishop and rice farmer Tib Belza.
"The reason it's a broad base of support is because it affects Yuba County's economy on many different levels," Morehead said.
Stocker said he would dismiss the group's claims because all his measure does is take General Plan amendments from being something supervisors would vote on to something the public would vote on. Anything allowable under the General Plan now, he said, would still be allowed if the measure passes.
Establishing a winery, listed as an example of something that would be negatively affected by the measure, would be permissible because it is an agricultural use, Stocker said.
"It's going to take a big deal before there's a vote on it," he said.
Stocker said he also thought another claim by the anti-Measure T group — that high costs for special elections making it harder on small-property owners — was inaccurate.
Yuba County Alliance for Property Rights members said such elections could cost as much as $170,000. But because the county often has regular elections or special elections for other reasons, Stocker said, any projects needing a vote would be probably be combined with those ballots, bringing the cost down to about $2,000 to $3,000.
He added, there hasn't been any determination made on who would pay for those elections, but if they're consolidated with another election, the price tag shouldn't scare off anyone.
Stocker's measure is based on a similar one adopted in Napa County, where voters approved Measure J in 1990, then extended it by passing Measure P in 2008.
In those 18 years, Napa's had 14 ballot measures related to the measures, and most appeared to have been consolidated with regular elections. Six passed while eight failed.
Though the anti-Measure T group pointed to a measure in Napa on expanding outdoor dining at a restaurant as a perhaps unintended result of the measure, Napa County planning director Hillary Gitelman said she has heard few complaints there.
"The two measures are quite beloved here," she said. "They're given credit for protecting the rural and agricultural feel we have."
But Morehead said basing a Yuba County measure on a Napa County measure is a bad fit.
"The economy is not similar here," she said.
With independent polling this week showing Measure T with more than 60 percent support, Morehead said, her group was both not surprised and ready to respond.
"We know it'll be a process of education," she said.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.