Ed Thomas: Is it time for Board of Supervisors to say uncle?
The Board of Supervisors has done it again. By a 4-1 vote they approved another $150,000 of legal fees for the Lockyer/Erickson case. That brings the total outside legal cost to $425,000.
With the in-house costs added in that, it comes to probably over a million dollars spent on this case. If the county loses the case, which so far looks like that will happen, they will have to reimburse the Lockyer/Erickson legal costs, which reportedly are over $1 million.
Total cost to us, the taxpayers, on a matter that never should have gotten to this point, more than $2 million.
The supervisors’ comments at their Oct. 27 meeting indicate they feel like they are defending the county and have no other choice. Other comments made imply they (the supervisors) know things the public doesn’t know; they are up against unlimited money; numerous innuendos about the case that are factually not true; a feeling that they are doing all this on behalf of the citizens of Nevada County.
I have spent well over 100 hours keeping up with this situation.
A simple recap of this case from my point of view is: Plaintiffs apply for a building permit in March 2011; approved in August 2011 with the condition that a deed restriction had to be placed on the property regarding the maintenance of trees; Lockyer/Erickson object to this; Planning Department says the area had been declared a VIR (Visually Important Ridgeline) in connection with the Verizon cell tower, before the Lockyer/Ericksons had applied for their permit.
It came out later that this was false. It was declared a VIR by the Board of Supervisors two years after the application had been made.
It is beyond me how anyone could call the ridgeline in question a visually important ridgeline. The view is marred by two big water tanks; a cell tower; and previously constructed homes.
It should be noted here that a mock-up of the proposed house showed it could not be seen from anywhere.
Also, it should be noted that this was the first VIR ever so designated in Nevada County and when Verizon put up its cell tower it was not proposed.
So here is my take on what probably has happened: Lockyer/Erickson apply for permit; Planning Department, smarting and irritated by Lockyer/Erickson objecting to the cell tower in their backyard and filing a lawsuit over it (which they lost) decides to retaliate and requires the restriction on the permit. Lockyer/Erickson object to the restriction and their treatment by the Planning Department and file suit.
And here we are: four years after the initial permit request; approaching $2 million in costs incurred by both parties; and stuck.
Had the Board of Supervisors looked into the situation closely at the time of the first appeal they should have granted the appeal and not blindly gone to the defense and support of the Planning Department’s actions.
Their job is to look out for its citizens as well as its employees and above all do what is right and makes sense.
The Lockyer/Ericksons are a valuable and involved couple in our community. Their contributions to our community have been thoughtful, meaningful and extensive. I am grateful to them for not letting the bureaucracy trample them and for standing up for what is right.
I think it is time for the county to step up and pay the piper. It is never too late to do the right thing.
Ed Thomas lives in Grass Valley.
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“You’ve heard me say this before: Every acre can and will burn someday in this state” — Cal Fire Director Thom Porter.