NH 2020 protests come to town | SierraSun.com

NH 2020 protests come to town

Approximately 15 people protested Saturday in Truckee against a county-wide planning process that they claim will threaten their rights as landowners.

Protect Your Property Rights, a Nevada City-based group that represents land- and homeowners, organized the demonstration against Natural Heritage 2020, a Nevada County planning initiative designed to protect open space.

The protest occurred Saturday morning outside the closed offices of Sierra Business Council on Donner Pass Road.

Sierra Business Council has partnered with the county in the formation of NH 2020.

Drew Bedwell, president of Protect Your Property Rights, said his group came to Truckee to “bring information to this side of the mountain. We know of the influence of the other persuasion. This whole thing is a lie and a veiled threat to property owners.”

Bedwell said he believes NH 2020, coupled with the federal Endangered Species Act, is a ploy by environmentalists to put “more and more restrictions on your property. The use of the Endangered Species Act and its habitat has been twisted to separate the property owner from the use of the land.”

According to the Nevada County Web site, NH 2020 seeks “to identify, manage and protect natural habitats, plant and animal species diversity, and open space resources in (Nevada) County.”

After an inventory of plant and animal species has been completed, the county will implement the program by developing “a habitat and open space management plan with specific implementation measures, governance mechanisms and funding options.”

“It represents comprehensive planning,” said Nevada County Fifth District Supervisor Barbara Green of Truckee.

After demonstrating Saturday, the NH 2020 protest group fanned out across town in hopes of spreading their message and getting registered voters to sign a petition they will present to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

Bedwell said the petition, with “over 4,000 signatures,” will reinforce his group’s call for a referendum on NH 2020 to be placed on the March 2002 ballot.

“Our objective is to get an unbiased, thumbs up or thumbs down vote on (NH 2020) on the ballot. In order to accomplish that, we have to show there is a genuine interest in the community we have to have a little ammunition.”

“We fully expect (the board of supervisors) to turn us down, but we will come at them again with more signatures the next time,” Bedwell said.

However, officials at Sierra Business Council claim the program, once implemented, will give landowners greater flexibility.

“It gives people more options on what to do with their property. It’s not adding another layer of regulation,” said Lee Fitzpatrick, communications director for the Sierra Business Council.

Fitzpatrick said the county approached Sierra Business Council with a partnership because of the council’s involvement in formulating similar measures such as Inyo County’s Vision 2020 and Placer Legacy in Placer County.

“The whole point of it was to get public participation,” Fitzpatrick said. “There was no opposition (in Inyo County) because when you went into the room, you saw downtown merchants, ranchers and environmentalists all working together the idea is to get as many people at the table as you can to protect open space without stepping on people’s property rights.”

Fitzpatrick said Placer Legacy, which he called “very similar” to NH 2020, received “incredible support from a wide array of groups,” including the Sierra Club, the Building Industry Association of Northern California, farmers and ranchers.

“You rarely see (the Sierra Club and the Building Industry Association) on the same side,” Fitzpatrick said. “The idea is to protect open space, but it’s incentive-driven it’s locally driven and science-based.”

One western Nevada County landowner agrees with this assessment.

“He is right on that,” said Dennis Ball, referring to the incentives proposed for NH 2020.

Ball owns in excess of 400 acres of land near Penn Valley in western Nevada County, with approximately 225 acres of vineyard.

Ball said a possible incentive in NH 2020 would be for landowners selling their development rights to the county.

In exchange for those development rights, Ball said the landowner “would be compensated monetarily from the county, and the (county’s) revenue source would be from selling those rights” to another developer in an area already zoned for development.

In hopes of building a broad coalition, NH 2020 includes a Community Advisory Committee and several working groups.

Agricultural, recreational and forestry working groups, comprised of public and private interests, make recommendations to the Community Advisory Committee, which in turn, will make a formal recommendation to the board of supervisors.

“There is a lot of diversity on the committee, and a lot of cohesiveness also,” Ball said. Ball is the co-chairman of the agricultural working group.

“If (NH 2020) is pure in it’s intentions, it’s a wonderful opportunity for agriculture,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bedwell said that Protect Your Property Rights has no intention of backing off on its opposition to NH 2020.

“We are going to make our presence known in (eastern Nevada County),” Bedwell said.

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