Preserve county’s beauty for all
A few weeks ago, my wife and I took a trip across Lake Tahoe on the MS Dixie, an annual event for us. As the boat approached the lake’s center, I looked around at the vastness of blue, the Sierra to the west, the Carson Range to the east. My eyes wandered around the lake’s long shoreline and something struck me about the lake and the “publicness,” if you will, of Tahoe and its alpine beauty. Who owns the lake? Well, we all do, actually, especially if you believe that such grandeur is a gift from God. Is it not there for all to enjoy and to feast our tired eyes upon?
With this in mind, should the governing bodies around the lake not have a say in what is constructed around the shore of such a magnificent entity? Logic would answer a definitive “yes.” There seems to be a controversy around the Tahoe Regional Planning Commission’s pending rule governing the size and number of homes built around the lakeshore. I ask folks this: Do we want to see the shoreline rimmed with more housing? Are not the casinos already blight enough? Having been raised in Sacramento in the ’50s, I recall what Tahoe looked like at that time, and what it looks like today. Should people be allowed to negatively impact the view of all for the pleasures of the few? Should property owners be paid for their loss (the “takings” initiative) when their land is deemed unbuildable for the overall well-being of the public? These issues are just as relevant here in Nevada County.
This brings us to a brief discussion of property rights: absolute, or not? If you think your property rights are absolute, think again. Anytime you or I do something with our property that impacts our neighbors, then they have the right to offer input to the proper agencies. My wife and I own a beautiful piece of property on Banner Mountain. You might think that I feel that our rights of property are absolute. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s what the planning process is all about.
A so-called “taking” would occur only if a government agency rendered a property worthless. Courts have generally held this to be a valid position. A “reduction” in the value of one’s property can be extremely subjective. Each and every one of us is really just a custodian of our little “piece of this planet.” We must ultimately pass it on to others. That is why the so-called “takings” initiative is doomed to fail, one way or another.
There have been many, many changes in our county since I used to come here 50 years ago from Sacramento with my dad on his business trips. Some of the changes have been good: more services, more useful goods offered, etc. On the other hand, proliferation of strip malls such as Pine Creek and Brunswick Basin is, and should be, a cause for concern. It is not that these shopping areas were built. It is the way they were built – for the most part ugly, corporate, big-box style structures (especially in the Brunswick Basin), and no attempt whatsoever to make them fit into Nevada County’s natural environment. A pathetic job of landscaping, as well. Where were the responsible governing parties? What were they thinking? Not much, obviously.
Preserving the natural beauty of our area must be of the highest priority. This certainly ties into property values and the role of planning commissions to monitor, control and correct what and how growth is done here. We on Banner Mountain are very concerned about a 200-home development planned off Red Dog Road, a development as now conceived that would, for one thing, funnel hundreds of cars down bumpy and narrow lower Boulder Street. Yes, the property owner has the right to develop his/her land. But again, should people be allowed to impact negatively the lives of many resident for the profit of the few?
With an election coming up, it is critical that we keep these issue of property rights and the “takings” initiative in the forefront. If we are going to keep the beauty that we have and plan for intelligent (read attractive) growth, then I feel that our incumbent Board of Supervisors is the ones to go with. They have the experience and the dedication to walk that narrow path of balance between conservation interests and the growth of the county.
Dennis Sloate lives in Nevada City.
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