Car’s still in the garage, but issues are driving us |

Car’s still in the garage, but issues are driving us

I’m writing this a week early while getting ready for a trip along the southern portion of the Oregon coast, among the most beautiful in the world. It’s attractive, despite its modest traffic and limited development. The coastline is accessible, but it hasn’t been ruined; there is a balance. Thanks to tax funds from locals and visitors, roadside parks and pullouts prove adequate to demand. Of course the land that is devoted to parks and viewpoints is no longer on the tax rolls, is it? But then that loss of revenue is offset by a new source – increased tourism revenues. I am reminded somehow of the argument being kicked around Nevada County that providing for open space in our area will decrease the land available for taxation … and that having open space will therefore cause increased taxes.

Likely, there’s no simple answer, but what happens by ignoring open-space needs and, furthermore, failing to plan well? Does open-space planning increase taxes and decrease property values? By planning for far less than “clear-cut” development, don’t we actually increase the value of property? To paraphrase – I think – Jacques Barzun: If you think limited development is expensive, try fast growth.

The Union recently reported about the newly installed Lime Kiln and Highway 49 light. I use that light nearly every day and appreciate its added safety. At the same time, however, its importance is based on earlier housing, recent improvements in roads and, of course, the resulting increased traffic. We’ve built houses, and now we need roads and signal lights, not to mention a host of other stuff. Who’ll pay for these improvements?

Not that developers don’t pay any impact fees, but it seems that if we go ahead with helter-skelter development, citizen bystanders wind up paying for many later improvements. That’s like drive-by taxation! If there is no longer open space where there now is an Alta Sierra, have we lowered our taxes? Quite the opposite has occurred! One of the two recent lights and the widening of a short bit of the road cost $827,000. That sum didn’t completely come out of our county coffers, but it was still tax money. I’m still working on this business of understanding how being against planning is going to protect us all from higher taxes, but I’ll keep on working on it.

Anyway, back to the trip. We haven’t even left yet, and already there is a slight overshadowing, for me, of anticipation. Admittedly, the clouding is of my own making, prompted by a manifestation of signage from our own otherwise lovely landscape. I have a nagging, recurring apparition that dims what that trip will be like. (It’s not like there’s much that could mess up that lovely Pacific seacoast. I’ve been there in all seasons and weather conditions. I’m a storm-watcher as well as a fair- weather fan of those shores.) But, for just a few moments, as I dream of looking along the breaking waves, an intruding flash smashes my reverie. I have a creepy feeling that as we drive along some of the haystack rocks, I will round a hairpin curve only to look out and find a series of huge “No on NH 2020” signs. Such are the things of which nightmares are made.

I suppose that somewhere in that imagery there may be an implicit compliment. After all, one of the main functions of a sign is to get noticed. In that – and please don’t misinterpret this as a call for vandalism – it’s rather like a festering sore that begs to be lanced so that the rest of the organism can better heal. These signs do get attention, but it’s not that of a positive message.

Critics of planning have cried out that property rights would be in serious danger if NH 2020 went ahead in this county. But when a real threat to property rights was declared recently, nothing much was heard from these self-proclaimed rights champions. Maybe the sign-maker was on vacation – in Oregon? It was recently announced that NID will probably dig a huge, several-miles-long ditch parallel to Banner Lava Cap and Idaho/Maryland roads. It’s for a pipeline right of way. They may cut a swath up to 40 feet wide, 5 feet deep and about 5 1/2 miles long. Of course, any trees along the way will have to be removed and private property condemned under eminent domain.

Anti-planning groups say they are for protection of private property rights. So I wonder when the CABPRO and CPR folks will hold their anti-NID rallies?

Larry Shumaker, a resident of Alta Sierra, writes a monthly column.

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