NH 2020 to go to vote: But only after more study
NEVADA CITY – Nevada County’s embattled resource protection program will go to a vote – once county supervisors know what the program contains.
On Tuesday, three Nevada County supervisors agreed with fellow board member Peter Van Zant and voted to pass the resolution he proposed.
Van Zant wants to place Natural Heritage 2020 on the ballot after committees have made their recommendations on the long-term resource protection plan – likely late next year.
Opponents of Natural Heritage 2020 asked weeks ago for the Tuesday slot to tell supervisors why the 8,000-plus signatures they collected on petitions meant voters should get to vote in March.
The petitions have no binding effect on the Board of Supervisors, said County Counsel Charles McKee.
Sue Horne, who abstained from the vote, presented supervisors with a third proposal: to place the program on hold for one year and to create a committee to evaluate why NH 2020 “has failed to garner community-wide support.”
Robert Ingram, a member of Citizens for Property Rights In Nevada County, told supervisors that most landowners in the county feared losing legal land uses as a result of habitat protection plans. Controversy could have been avoided if landowners had been given an equal voice in making recommendations to supervisors, he said.
“We should have been allies,” Ingram told supervisors. “We all want open space.”
Shirley Hendrickson, a member of the ad hoc Committee for No on Natural Heritage 2020, and Drew Bedwell, founder of Protect Your Property Rights, along with several other opponents took turns showing how voters were calling for a March election on whether to continue the program.
Pat Davison, field director for California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners, told supervisors that the “tremendous polarization” around NH 2020 is the result of the flawed process.
“If a majority rules steam-roller attitude is allowed to push NH 2020 to some conclusion in the next 18 months, the bitterness, frustration, confusion and anger we see now will not lessen or be silenced,” Davison said.
The program’s 16-member Community Advisory Committee is awaiting recommendations from the nine-member Scientific Advisory Committee as well as three larger “working groups” focusing on agriculture, forestry and recreation.
Rules that Chairwoman Elizabeth Martin outlined to the standing-room-only crowd in the board chambers – no disrespect shown, no shouting, no yelling and no applauding – were abandoned periodically during the nearly three-hour public hearing.
Twenty-one people spoke in support of NH 2020 and the supervisors.
Brian Bisnett, one of 16 voting members of the program’s Community Advisory Committee, told supervisors that “recommendations will not succeed if they come at the cost of any one group.”
“Many people will come together,” he said. “You will be surprised.”
Lee Hudson, a forest activist, thanked county supervisors and expressed sympathy for their having to endure what she described as “vile, vile comments” used to describe their actions.
Ten people spoke against it, including Calvin Clark, whose effort to recall Martin failed in July. Several people in the crowd yelled “Time’s up” when Clark went over his allotted three minutes and applauded wildly when he stopped speaking.
Betsy Bertram, a member of PYPR, likened the program to terrorism and told supervisors they were “holding me hostage on property rights.” People in the crowd hissed in response.
Van Zant and Nevada City Councilman David McKay protested being likened to terrorists for their support of NH 2020.
“Forty years ago this year I left my pregnant wife and 1-year-old in Hopewell Junction, New York and spent the next year in service to my country,” Van Zant said. “I do not – do not – appreciate tying events of Sept. 11 to NH 2020.”
McKay, an NH 2020 committee member, interrupted, telling supervisors that, as a Vietnam veteran, he did not like the comparison.
“No, you just need to listen. You just need to say some prayers and ask forgiveness. That was absurd, just absurd.”