County fire plan approved " brush clearing voluntary |

County fire plan approved " brush clearing voluntary

County supervisors ended more than five years of suspense Tuesday when they unanimously approved a fire plan despite public concerns about property rights and confusing language.

The fire plan was folded into the safety element of the county’s general plan, where emergency preparedness for other manmade and natural disasters is found.

“I would like to get it on the ground and get the clock ticking,” said District 1 Supervisor Nate Beason, adding he doesn’t think the plan is strict enough.

“At some point we’ve got to get off our duff and move this thing,” said District 5 Supervisor Ted Owens.

With the supervisors’ approval, the county will not mandate property owners to comply with state defensible space laws ” an action the county says it doesn’t have the funding to support.

“Now it becomes voluntary,” said Jessica Hankins, associate planner for the county.

“The thing we’re all hoping for is voluntary compliance,” said Robert Ingram of the group Citizens for Property Rights.

Brush clearing is expensive, however, and without financial assistance, some property owners don’t have the money to perform the work on their own.

“I don’t want my property tax bill to start looking like my phone bill. Some of us are really strapped,” said Joanne Nunnink, who has owned property on Banner Mountain Trail for 23 years.

Down the road, the fire plan is subject to change, however.

Since its first drafts in 2003, the fire plan has been a source of attack from people who thought it was too strict to people who feel its most recent version lacks “teeth,” including the county grand jury.

Holding up the plan for further revision could lead insurance companies to drop more policies from Nevada County property owners, Beason said.

“The insurance companies are not going to rest,” he said.

Though not completely satisfied with the fire plan, Ingram agreed it was time to move forward.

“We can always adjust it as we see problems,” Ingram said.

A separate educational document will be available to offer simplified direction for thinning around homes as required by state law.

State fire officials are the only ones with the authority to issue citations to property owners who do not thin brush within a 100 foot swath around their homes, said supervisor Hank Weston.

For a number of years two inspectors from the county have assessed properties throughout the county and inform Calfire of property owners resistant to reduce flammable dry fuels on their land.

Among ideas presented by the public were suggestions for neighborhood evacuation drills, expanding vegetative management on county roads and defining confusing terms.

As expected, supervisors approved an $85,000 contract with the Economic Resource Council for economic development. A contract for $115,000 was approved with the Grass Valley/ Nevada County Chambers of Commerce to promote tourism.

The county is seeking increased accountability for results from the six local chambers of commerce. County Executive Officer outlined the plan in The Union on Saturday.

“I want to see a new model by January,” said District 4 Supervisor Hank Weston. The new plan needs to include one unified Web site promoting all of Nevada County rather than six separate ones, Weston said. If positive results don’t materialize in the coming year, the county could cut off its financial aid to the chambers, Weston said.

“Nobody’s working together as a team. You better figure out a new paradigm,” Weston said.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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