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Anti-NH 2020 campaign just a distraction

I agreed to work with NH 2020 on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee because I believe that good planning and design can solve problems – that’s how I have been able to both consider myself an environmentalist and still spend my entire career working in the development industry, first as a general contractor and then as a landscape architect. I felt NH 2020 was an elegant model for building consensus on the difficult question of how to balance growth and development in Nevada County. Not only did NH 2020 provide opportunities for Nevada County’s residents to participate in this consensus-building process, it did so with a minimum of taxpayer expense, by partnering with the Sierra Business Council, a nonprofit organization of area business owners who recognize that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand.

Now, as I see the first recommendations come forward from NH 2020’s working groups, I believe in NH 2020 more than ever. The recommendations that are coming out of this process are fair and reasonable. They make sense. They respect the interests and concerns of a broad range of Nevada County residents. The CAC has worked hard to produce these recommendations, and it deserves to be proud of its work.



So the hardest aspect of this whole NH 2020 imbroglio is seeing the efforts of these volunteers distorted and misrepresented by others to advance private political agendas. It’s not easy to see our best efforts at building consensus on the issues facing Nevada County being twisted and used to generate fear and divisiveness.




So what is the real objective of this relentless anti-NH 2020 campaign of disinformation? Who, really, stands to gain if we pull the plug on NH 2020? A few quixotic anti-government conspiracy theorists might enjoy a brief, pyrrhic victory, until they realize that behind the local windmill they’ve managed to tilt there’s a big federal windmill waiting to take its place. A few million more boards of lumber may be ripped out of our county before the Endangered Species Act is finally triggered. A few thousand more acres of wetlands or blue oak woodlands may be “inadvertently” bulldozed before the variety of local, state and federal laws already on the books can be properly enforced.

But for the majority of the county’s residents, there will be a price to be paid. The longer we delay in creating a plan for managing our resources, the fewer options we will have available to us and the fewer resources we will have left to manage. In the meanwhile, the county will lose the generous SBC funding for work that will ultimately need to be done at taxpayer’s expense. The development community will lose a chance to design policies that could make Nevada County’s development process more predictable and affordable. Even the big boys – Sierra Pacific Industries and the big landowners with the big development plans – will eventually find themselves worse off as the NH 2020 process, in which they had a voice, is replaced by a phalanx of increasingly onerous and unpredictable state and federal regulations.

But for the major players – SPI and the major landowner/developers who’ve been bankrolling the anti-2020 propaganda campaign – it’s no longer about NH 2020. It never was. It’s about driving a wedge between a popular Board of Supervisors and the community that elected them. It’s about regaining the driver’s seat at the Rood Center. It’s about power, and it’s about creating and maintaining a controversy large enough to distract the electorate from all the issues that make up the other 95 percent of county government, issues which this incumbent board has handled with aplomb.

To those of you who are alarmed and concerned about the hubbub surrounding NH 2020, I would ask a few things: First, that you read the recommendations that are coming out of the NH 2020 working groups, recommendations that have been achieved by consensus with a tremendous amount of community input, and see if you agree with them. And second, that you look skeptically at the leaflets and mailers that claim NH 2020 – which has yet to make any formal recommendations to the Board of Supervisors – will take away your property rights or decrease your property values, because those claims are untrue and designed to scare you into giving up your money and your vote. And lastly, next time the elections roll around, look at what the incumbents and their challengers have to say about all the real and significant issues that face our county, and make your decision accordingly.

Brian Bisnett, a resident of the Higgins Corner area, writes a monthly column.


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